The Ownership Principle
The shelves at my office and home are lined with books on nutrition and exercise. If you grab
any of books and flip through the pages, you'll find sentences underlined and scribbling in the
margins. I don't read a book, I devour it!
Out of all those books, however, I've yet to find one whose content or message I was willing
to swallow hook, line and sinker. Instead, from each book, I take what rings true, makes
sense, and what I can use - and I leave the rest. So I really don't expect that many people
will adopt every aspect of the program presented in this book. And in some ways, as I'll
explain in a moment, it's probably best that you don't swallow my message whole.
Several years ago, I struck up a conversation in a bookstore with a fellow browser. If
memory serves me correctly, he was a dentist. He recognized me as an author and columnist,
and we got to talking about books in general. Something he said has stuck in my mind ever
since: "If I get just one idea from a book that I can use," he told me, "I consider it a
worthwhile read." Think about it. There a lot of validity in what he said, isn't there?
It can be said that all of us are the sum total of everything we've read and experienced over
the course of our lifetime, not just one book or any one experience. The lifestyle we lead is
pieced together from many different sources. This point was brought home to me by a series
of letters from a 50-year-old Swedish health-and-fitness enthusiast.
At first, I passed this gentleman off as an eccentric. After reading my first book, Ripped,
when it was serialized in Bodybuilding Monthly, a British publication, he expressed a rather
off-the-wall (I thought) opinion, "I do not believe that the human body is built to lift weights
for sets and repetitions as is done when bodybuilding," he wrote in his first letter. Obviously, I
didn't agree. So you can see why I was not instantly attracted to the man and his views. On
further reflection and after receiving several more letters, however, it dawned on me that
there is an important lesson in what he had to say. Let me tell you a little bit more about him,
and why his views are important.
He's no kook. He's had the same job for the last 25 years, working from midnight to around
seven in the morning. Plus, he's been an observer of the health-and-fitness scene for almost
as long. About 20 years ago, he bought a bodybuilding course and started training. Enclosed
with one of his letters was a picture of himself holding a current issue of Muscle & Fitness,
the world's most widely read bodybuilding magazine, which shows that, in spite of his
apparent aversion to weight training, he's still interested in the topic. As mentioned, he took
the trouble to read my book when it was spread over several issues of Bodybuilding
Monthly. So his opinions had been formed over time, and only after long study.
After a year of lifting, he claims, his blood pressure went up. What's more, he sent me a
picture of his scar to prove that he got a hernia from deadlifting. That seems to be what
persuaded him that the human body - or at least his body - is not built to lift weights. He
stopped lifting, but he didn't lose interest in health and fitness, not by a long shot. The muscles
he built with weights are all gone now, he says, but his photo shows a very lean and fit
50-year-old. That's no accident.
He has continued to exercise, following a program of simple calisthenics - push-ups, sit-ups,
one-legged squats, lunges, neck bridges and the like - developed by Swedish fitness advisor
Arne Tammer. In addition, rain or shine, he runs/jogs around a school yard for 15 minutes
(no more, no less) two times a week. He runs in the clothes he has on, "even if it's boots and
a raincoat." Like I said, he's no casual fitness buff.
His father died of a heart attack at age 53, and it's pretty clear he wants to avoid a similar
fate. That's why he never eats meat or any fatty food and doesn't drink milk. Seven days a
week, he eats only fish, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, bananas, carrots, bread and drinks nothing
but water. As you already know, my own meals follow a regular pattern, too.
Obviously, through trial and error, my Swedish friend has found a diet and exercise program
that works for him. He's taken bits and pieces from weight trainers (calisthenics, after all, are
a form of weight training), from me (uniform eating), from Arne Tammer and probably a lot
of other people. He took what made sense to him and combined it to form his own unique
system. It's his personal program and that, no doubt, is why it works so well...for him. He's
undergone a psychological process of "ownership." It's a process that often spells the
difference between success and failure for those trying to become lean and fit, and stay that
As noted in Chapter One, the dismal statistics say that 95% of those who manage to lose
weight gain it all back...and then some! Actually that number exaggerates the failure rate to
some extent. "The statistics we have come from clinical settings where you get the people
with the toughest problems," says Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., co-director of the Obesity
Research Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, it's common knowledge that
most people are unable to keep the weight from coming back on once they've lost it. Some
do succeed, however. When they do, it's generally because they've adopted the ownership
Susan Olson, Director of Psychological Services at the Southwest Geriatric Nutrition Center
in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Dr. Robert Colvin of the Southern Illinois University School of
Medicine studied 54 adults who had lost at least 20% of their body weight and had
maintained that weight loss for a minimum of two years. They found plenty of variation in why
and how these people succeeded. But there was one common denominator: these people
each found their own method for shedding pounds and keeping them off, a method with
which they were comfortable. Like the Swedish gentleman, they didn't rely on someone else's
program. They developed their own.
That may sound too simple, but Dr. Olson says that many dieters find it much more
comfortable to rely on "external" controls such as weight-loss programs that dictate how to
act. That mind set, she says, allows the potential weight loser to feel that it's not really "up to
him," that "cheating" reflects upon someone other than himself, that the control, the rules, the
entire process are all out of his hands. Besides being untrue, such thoughts undermine a
person's confidence in the weight-loss solution. Like the old adage says, "A person
convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." That means, of course, that the person
soon goes back to his or her old fattening ways.
"It's a matter of what people are really willing and not willing to do," Dr. Olson explained. My
Swedish correspondent is not willing to lift weights, but calisthenics, running on the track in all
manner of attire - even when it's snowing - and a fat-free diet suit him just fine. That's why
the routine works for him. He made the rules, and he alone is responsible for the results. It's
his program. He owns it.
That's the reason why I wrote this book with thinking men and women in mind. As explained
in Chapter Three, I want readers to focus less on the how of my diet and training and more
on the why. We all have different backgrounds, needs, goals and abilities. Obviously, no one
program is suitable for everyone.
The lifestyle described in this book is mine. I don't expect you to follow it blindly. Weigh
what I have to say. If common sense tells you it's good advice, and you feel comfortable with
the "fit," adapt it to your special situation. Don't rely on someone else's program, including
mine. Take that which suits you and leave the rest. Develop your own health and fitness
lifestyle. Own it.
Do that, and chances are you'll be Lean For Life.
For more details on the book including pricing, a reader's comment, and review
comments on the book from Master Trainer : Go to Lean For Life Book Page
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