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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

Tips For Out-Of-Fit Physician

Q. I'm a 42-year-old male physician and I lead a rather sedentary life. I have always enjoyed backpacking, rock climbing, skiing and racquetball, but lately I have had increasing difficulty doing these activities.

Last week at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas I scored solidly in the "poor" category on the cardiorespiratory fitness test and my body fat measured a disastrous 24 percent.

I would like to improve my fitness and reduce my body fat. I would appreciate your advice regarding a diet and exercise program.

A. Doctors, lawyers and other professional and business people are often so busy solving problems of others that they neglect themselves. The results of your body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness tests have, apparently, convinced you that you should devote some time to yourself. You've been motivated to reduce your body fat and improve your aerobic fitness. Here are some tips, based on my own experience, that will make it easier and less time consuming for you to reach these goals.

First, read my book Ripped. It provides a good summary of the diet I use to stay lean. Your diet should include a great deal of whole, natural foods that have all the bulk and fiber left in them and no sugar or fat added. You should eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Switching to this pattern of eating with no other changes will go a long way to help reduce your body fat.

Two simple techniques complement this diet and help you eat less: 1) eat slowly and 2) don't put more food on the table than you plan to eat.

You will eat less if you eat slowly because your stomach has enough time to signal your brain that you are full. However, it's not necessary to chew one mouthful numerous times, nor is it necessary to put your fork down between bites. Simply make it a point to take your time eating.

It helps to include something with each meal that must be chewed for a long time. For example, it takes longer to eat whole-grain, cooked cereal than cornflakes. A large, raw carrot takes longer to chew than canned vegetables. Try this technique. It really works.

Take a few moments before each meal to plan what you're going to eat. And put only that food on the table. Extra portions tempt you to eat more. If you want more, you should have to get up from the table to get it. This makes you think twice about eating more and should make it easier to stick to your meal plan.

It's a good idea to keep high-calorie "goodies" out of the house. Once again, if the food isn't available you won't eat it. Ask your family to help you with this. My wife tries to keep high-calorie food out of my reach and sight.

Exercise is the other half of your fitness equation. A regular program of exercise will burn calories, build lean tissue and improve your aerobic fitness.

With a little planning you can make exercise part of your daily activity. And you won't have to take time to go to the gym or change clothes. For example, my office is on the third floor and I never take the elevator. I always use the stairs. This requires no extra time and, in the course of a year, it burns a lot of calories and fat. You can put similar practices into your daily routine. For example, when you're seeing patients at the hospital, use the stairs instead of the elevator. And try standing up when you talk on the telephone.

Of course, there's no need to overdo this. Don't make yourself uncomfortable. Over time, slight changes in your daily routine go a long way in helping you become leaner and more fit.

Your formal exercise program can be short and simple. Walking is an excellent way to burn calories and increase aerobic fitness. My wife and I take regular walks. I suggest that you look over your schedule and see if you can find some time for a brisk walk. What about 30 minutes right after lunch?

Walking on a regular basis is probably all the aerobic exercise you need during the week. On weekends you can engage in the activities you mention in your letter. Walking, plus more intense aerobic activity on weekends, will quickly pull you out of Dr. Cooper's "poor" category.

A weight training program will round out your prescription for fitness. Weight training will build lean tissue where you once had fat. And you can save yourself time by training at home. You can do a total body workout on a 10-in-1 bench or a multi-station selectorized machine. It'll take you about 30 minutes two or three times a week.

Finally, schedule yourself for retesting at the Cooper Clinic in six months. This will give you a goal to shoot for and keep you dieting and exercising regularly.

Give fitness a high priority in your life. You'll be glad you did and so will your patients and family.


This Q&A was taken from my book The Lean Advantage. It's still as timely as the day it was written. I know from my e-mails that many people are searching for answers to questions about diet and exercise. They need the kind of sound and practical advice given to this physician.

If you have questions about fat loss, muscle building, aerobic fitness, healthy lifestyle, aging or anything relating to diet and exercise, the answers are probably in The Lean Advantage series, which collects and organizes most of the columns I wrote for Muscle & Fitness magazine over a 16 year period. Taken together, the three books constitute a virtual encyclopedia of bodybuilding, health and fitness.

To encourage people to discover the veritable treasure chest of valuable information in this collection, we are offering a special on all three books, $30.00 + 8.00 shipping and handling (If purchased separately they would total $45.85 plus the shipping) so this is almost a $16.00 savings. If you want to know more about The Lean Advantage series simply click the Products section below.  For foreign postage check ordering page.

Call (505) 266-5858 to order (M-F, 8-5 Mtn time) or fax your credit card order to (505) 266-9123 (24 hours).

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