I wish there was. I’d write the book on it and reap the (financial) rewards.
This post on nutrition is in response to Expat Yank and Katherine, who both inquired on the subject. I touch a little on this aspect of Old Money life in the Second Edition of The Old Money Book, but I think some helpful fundamentals can be articulated here as well.
First, let me say that I don’t think being overweight is a character flaw. Furthermore, I know plenty of stocky people who are in great shape. They just aren’t slender or even ‘regular’ in their build. So it’s more about ‘health’ than it is about being slender or being more sturdy in your physique.
Second, I’m slender. I come from fence-post ancestors on my mother’s side and much the same on my father’s side. So DNA definitely plays a role in my physical appearance. It also plays a role in everyone else’s. So I acknowledge that and accept the reality of differences.
So let’s focus on health, which, after genetics, is often the result of daily diet and regular exercise.
For exercise, my routine is (almost) daily yoga, light weights, and walking the streets of Paris to the tune of about 3 to 6 miles a day (to the office and back 5 times a week, errands like farmers markets and the post office, and then long walks just for ‘exercise’ on weekends). I also get on a mini trampoline and bounce for about 45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week, more when the weather’s bad.
The exercise routine I recommend for you is the exercise routine you will do consistently, if not daily. It’s that simple. Regular cardio, respiratory, muscle tone, stretching, and breaking a sweat is my very non-scientific approach to staying healthy and sane.
On the nutrition side, I follow a fairly Old Money tradition of eating fresh foods and not eating a lot of processed foods. To be clear, a processed food is something that’s been altered or manufactured from other foods or ingredients. It’s something you don’t find in nature, like potato chips and hamburgers.
What you find in nature are fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, as well as eggs, chickens, fish, cows, sheep, and pigs. I don’t eat animals, so that leaves me with fruits, vegetables, grains like rice, pasta (I guess this is technically a processed food), beans and legumes, and eggs. Living in France, I also eat cheese, but in small quantities, and fresh bread.
Most of the Old Money Guys and Gals I know are not vegetarians. They do, however, almost religiously consume fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats in small portions. Most do not drink soft drinks, except the Coke in their Jack Daniel’s. Most do not have ‘iced’ drinks with their meals. (Cold beverages can contribute to inflammation and inhibit digestion.)
Most limit their sugar intake to sweetening coffee or hot tea. (Most processed foods contain sugar, so those are avoided.) They drink lots of filtered or bottled water. They are not on particular ‘diets’ per se, but they all watch what they eat and exercise daily.
Many lean toward an alkaline diet as opposed to an acidic diet. (You can research the difference online.) This choice has been shown to reduce the possibilities of health problems over the long haul and make you feel better physically in the short term.
A relative of mine in Palm Beach simply looks at the ingredients listed on a food’s packaging. If it has more than five ingredients, she puts it back on the shelf. I’ve never tried this, since my wife and I shop at the farmers markets and tend to buy only olive oil, wine, pasta, and the occasional vegetable from the grocery store. But let me know if you try it, and how it works.
In the kitchen, simpler is better. We cook fresh vegetables in a pan with olive oil and boil rice in a pot. It’s all very Asian/Mediterranean. My wife is the Spice Queen, but I have no idea where she finds these ingredients. They are delicious. We don’t use much salt, even when we share an occasional bowl of popcorn.
So that’s an overview of how my friends and my family cook, exercise, and live.
As far as ‘losing weight’ goes, I have only a few insights. These have worked for other people, time and time again, so they are things to consider.
“30 minutes a day on a stationary bike will change your life.” This is a quote from a neighbor of mine here in Paris who’s been around since Moses was in short pants. He’s still strolling the streets of the city with aplomb, healthy as can be, getting in his 30 minutes a day on the bike.
Adopting a meat free diet over time might help you lose weight. The first reason for this is that you’ll be required to become more aware of what you eat, which is a huge first step. You’ll be more inclined to cut out the junk.
The second reason for this is that you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables, which will be easier to digest than most animal products. You won’t feel like you need to take a nap after every meal.
The third reason for this is that eating food that’s easier to digest might give you more energy, which in turn could make it easier for you to exercise, burn calories, and, yes, lose weight. (Vegans and vegetarians have very low rates of obesity.)
Finally, adopting a meat free diet (or something very close to it) is going to give your body a chance to get rid of the toxins that are almost always present in meat products, especially meat products produced and sold in the United States.
You’ll be less at risk for food-related illnesses (statistics on these will shock you, both in the frequency and severity of the events, especially in the US.)
I’m not a fanatic about being a vegetarian or a vegan. I have perfectly civilized meals with meat eaters. I doubt they are going to hell for eating a pork chop. But if you want to be healthier, lose weight, and do the planet a huge favor, it’s an option to consider.
You might adopt a meat free or super healthy diet for Monday through Friday, and then eat whatever you want on Saturday and Sunday. Of course, this is a trick strategy on my part, as you will, over time, feel so much better during the week that you won’t want to eat bad food on the weekends because it will make you feel so bad. Oh well, tipped my hand there. But think about this option just the same.
Not watching network television at night will help, as you won’t have food ads in your face for an extended period of time.
Fast food is for once or twice a week, max.
Finally, finding a yoga routine that you can do and enjoy almost daily will also change your life. If you’re so inclined, find a class. If you don’t play well with others, like me, then you can find a video online and follow along, or pick up a book and read up on the practice, its history, and its benefits.
Know this: yoga practice will require that you eat well and sleep. It will demand it. It will also squeeze tobacco products, excessive alcohol consumption, and junk food out of your diet like a boa constrictor working on its prey. Slowly but surely, after a period of time, you will simply lose interest in things that are bad for you.
If you only start with one exercise, do the plank. 30 seconds up to 2 minutes of this exercise daily will strengthen your torso and arms. It’s a great start if you have busy mornings.
Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise or diet regimen.
And, prior to starting any new habit, it’s important to understand why you’re doing it. Personally, I’m selfish and afraid of death: I want to live to be a healthy 100. I want to accomplish a lot, but my work takes time. So I need more time. So I eat right, exercise, meditate, and hope for the best.
Your reasons will be your own, but it’s helpful if you know what they are.