The method: Amateur advice on healthy living

Once when I was a mid-level staff officer in a high level headquarters, a young soldier who worked there was trying desperately to get in better shape and convince his new love to marry him. I was a newly promoted “Iron Major”, single, and fully enjoying life in Germany. This particular soldier sort of looked up to me, so he asked me for advice on the fitness part that might help him with the lady part. After several failed attempts of his own and his supervisor’s at losing weight, the kid was growing desperate and eventually pleaded for me to give him some written advice.  A few days ago, I found a copy of the guidance I gave him.  Despite the non-expert source of the suggestions below (me), they really seem to work.  They do for me and did for that kid anyway; he lost the weight and got the girl. That was 13 years ago. Since then, I’ve lost touch with him, and like most, I’ve fallen off the fitness wagon myself a time or two. But I am happy to say that at 47, I’m still loving, going strong, and right now (2012) am probably in even better shape than I was when I wrote the stuff below. 

“Friday, September 24, 1999,  10:45:46 AM

Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Thoughts: Some basics of the method:

No tobacco (smokeless or otherwise) and try to avoid staying in smoky places for extended periods of time. (I used to chew loose-leaf like a fiend. It gave me mouth ulcers, sometimes upset my stomach (I often swallowed the juice), and made me feel dirty. I quit for the above reasons seven months ago and only occasionally even think about it now. Ref: secondary smoke, I really like to dance but only stay a short time now. I go to the club only to dance – not to hang out. I also used to smoke. I eventually realized how stupid it was and how stupid I looked doing it. You might not think so. Trust me, it is and you do.)

Use mouthwash daily. It helps kill the bacteria in your mouth, reducing the amount of low-level infections in your gums, letting your body concentrate on more significant endeavors (… obviously the dental hygienist left a big impression on me.)

Get enough sleep. I try to average seven (7) hours per night but haven’t managed it yet. Consistent sleep is generally better than staying up all week and crashing on the weekends. Despite that, I still sleep in and take naps on the weekends or otherwise when I can.

No more than two cups of coffee per day. (I was a coffee fiend and my resting heart rate was higher than I’d like. In less than a week I could see the difference.)

Eat lightly throughout the day. (I’m a grazer but still pig out sometimes.)

Eat enough for your body (feel full but not stuffed). Everyone is different with different needs and everyone changes over time.

Eat what you like but try to like healthy foods. I never before realized how good fruits and vegetables taste, or how much difference the right spice makes.

If it has a lot of sugar, salt, and/or fat in it, don’t eat it. If you eat it, accept what you do and enjoy it. Just don’t eat it all of the time or base your diet on stuff high in sugar, salt, and/or fat.

Buy convenient but healthy food. Rinse grapes, strawberries, other berries, radishes, carrots, etc, etc, etc, as soon as you bring them home. That way all you have to do is grab them out of the fridge and pop them in your mouth.

Drink more water than you think you need…. and pee a lot, it keeps you clean inside. (But make sure you are eating enough to avoid hydro-toxicity! Hydro toxicity is when you flush all of the electrolytes out of your system and put yourself in shock.)

Stay regular. (Eat a diet high in fiber, all that… You’ll be glad you did when you’re just a little older.)

Have a glass of beer or wine a few times per week. (It’s supposed to be good for the heart, but I really just like the taste.)

Try to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal; meat and dairy once or twice per day. Think hunter-gatherer. The early humans ate mostly what was easy to catch (plants don’t run away) and ate the other when they got lucky.

Prepare your own food and use raw materials not mixes. It has intangible benefits other than mere diet. If you are a lousy cook, start with a recipe off the label on spaghetti sauce and go from there.

Eat your salad with a little dressing (that is salad with dressing, not vice versa!). I prefer my own oil/vinegar mix with various spices (like Italian without the empty calories). It helps your body process the vitamins and it helps you feel like an adult human instead of a rabbit.

Got milk? Your body needs the calcium for your bones and teeth.

Stretch. I prefer the kind that does not involve lying on the ground. Lying on the ground is for relaxing, reconnaissance, and looking at clouds.

Lie on the ground. (It helps you feel connected.)

Get lucky a few times per week. More often and it can become your idol, less often and you’ll just be frustrated.

Get your heart pumping every day. Average 30-45 minutes at at least 65% Maximum Heart Rate per day. (For me, I shoot for 35min x 6days/week at 70%++. One day per week, I just don’t want to think about it. Sometimes I don’t make it, sometimes it is considerably more time and/or intensity. The type of weight workouts I do also keep me at about 65% but I don’t count that as Cardio-Respiratory exercise time.)

Do strength training at least two or three times per week. My exercises are usually a combination body-weight/dumbbell routine or using equipment in the gym for a change of pace.

Wait 48-72 hours between heavy training for a particular muscle group.

Why dumbbells for me? Lifting heavy barbells without a spotter makes me nervous because of previous work injuries to my back and left shoulder. I can keep dumbbells at home (no “mirror gods” or “weight inspectors” watching what I do), they take no effort to start (no switching plates or annoying set-up), and using them is more like fun exercise than hard work. Basically, I am more likely to workout with them than if I had to go somewhere or set up a lot of stuff. I can also switch exercises quickly and can keep my heart rate up throughout the exercise session. Plus, I don’t have to convert my apartment into Gold’s Gym. See? There are so many good reasons…

A slight ache means you pushed yourself. Actual pain means something is wrong, you probably over-did it or are using bad form.

Do a variety of things. Thursday I ran, Friday I lifted heavy, Saturday I went on a ruckmarch, Sunday I tried in-line skating. It keeps life interesting and doesn’t let your muscles get used to (and unresponsive to) any given activity. Plus, compulsive behavior is never healthy (i.e., smoking, never drinking alcohol or eating meat, drinking to excess regularly, only eating meat and potatoes, spending three hours a day working out, etc.). If you’re doing something compulsively, ask yourself what you are trying to make up for with it.

Brush your teeth two or three times per day. You’re an adult; your enamel is much harder now. Brushing too often actually wears away your teeth prematurely. Rinse a lot though with water throughout the day, and remember the mouthwash thing.

Clean your ears and mouth, literally and figuratively.

Don’t go to bed nasty. Bathe every day and really clean everything. There is nothing grosser than underwear tracks, especially on someone else. (To everyone else, you are someone else.)

Use disinfectant even on small cuts. Keep them covered until they harden over (have sealed themselves) then let them air to keep them dry and let them heal.

Air out your feet whenever you can. Go barefoot or wear sandals whenever you can get away with it.

Trim your nails.

Floss. (And remember the mouthwash thing.)

Seek high places with a view (for example, a hilltop – not hanging over the edge of a skyscraper!)

Spend time in the woods, or at least around trees and running water.

Spend time with animals, it changes one’s perspective.

Try to leave the place like you found it, or better.

Avoid the temptation to kill or run from every bug you see. Don’t just sit and watch them bite you either, that’s plain weird.

Try new things, especially new physical challenges and foods.

Consider other people’s perspectives and why they could be right. Consider your own and how you could be right too. Remember you might both be wrong.


Listen to music – of a wide variety of sorts. Avoid the negative, “I hate you, you hate me” variety, it is just plain depressing.

Enjoy silence.

Be nice to kids, smile at them, talk with them, and be the kind of example you wish your kids could have.

Read …A lot and a variety of things. But don’t miss your real-world life because your nose was stuck in a book.

Smile … because you mean it. Smiling to make people wonder what you are up to is really an insecure cry for attention.

Believe …in what I cannot say. What I believe is broader and more encompassing than my words can describe. I simply believe and that has made all the difference.

You might wonder what a lot of this has to do with losing weight or getting back into shape. A previous commander of mine used to talk about fitness, fitness on all levels: physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, professional, and the list goes on. Basically, your body is a system of systems so that when one breaks down, it impacts the others. Keeping one part fit helps keep the other parts fit BUT if you focus only on one, the whole person ‘ system’ is out of balance and you eventually become overly dependent on the one. That in turn eventually leads to overall failure. This is not comprehensive by far but adhering to the ideas it tries to capture will help you stay healthy and keep a positive perspective. If you want specifics on nutrition or something, read a variety of books by real experts. Army FM 21-20, Physical Fitness, is a good place to start. Good luck.”

NOTE to Thoughtsalone readers:  If anyone decides to try this method, let me know how it goes for you. But I caution you, it is always best to check with your doctor before beginning any diet or fitness program. And if you’ve never had any training, ask a real expert (not me) for help. Just because this works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you…

3 Responses to “The method: Amateur advice on healthy living”

  1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words 2013/05/28 at 23:30 #

    some how I knew you were an officer LOLs..
    I was a SSGT in the Army….(long ago)
    wish I had had an officer that gave me this advice….

  2. thoughtsalone 2013/05/29 at 00:13 #

    We were all soldiers, just doing our jobs. I’ll not go down that road farther. 😉

    As to fitness, this stuff works. I’ve modified my own routine over the years to account for changing metabolism and recovery time, but the principles work. 🙂

  3. domain 2014/10/17 at 01:49 #

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed
    reading it, you can be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will come back at some point.
    I want to encourage you continue your great work, have a nice

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