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Editor’s note: This is Article 12 in the Meridian series, “The Half-Diet” wherein Richard Eyre lays out the basics of the most simple and logical method of losing weight and keeping it off. New installments in the series run every Wednesday. Most of the concepts are taken from Richard’s latest book THE HALF DIET DIET. Meridian readers who comment on all articles in this series will be put into a drawing for free copies of the book when the series concludes. Readers may still comment on articles 1 through 11.

In this twelfth article, let’s take a look back and review what we have covered so far in the Physical part of the Half Diet. It is important to have the principles and practices well in mind both to implement the body-diet and to help comprehend the mind-diet and spirit-diet that are still to come and that we will begin to discuss next week.

Seventeen Principles of the Physical Diet:

  1. Natural foods, in all their variety, are good for the body.
  2. Appetite, while it can direct us to the food our body needs, doesn’t know when to quit.
  3. We normally eat about twice as much as we need.
  4. By eating half of that–half as much as usual (and holding the line and doing it consistently)–we will gradually gravitate toward food that is twice as good (because our bodies, denied quantity, will demand quality.)
  5. By eating half as fast we can enjoy food twice as much.
  6. The more sensual attention we pay to eating, the more pleasurable it becomes.
  7. Disciplining both the amount we eat and the pace at which we eat further enhances the pleasure.
  8. Our bodies need more water as much as they need less food.
  9. A stomach that is full of water will ask for and be satisfied with less food.
  10. Allowing the whole digestive system shut down and rest periodically (through fasting) can cleanse and rejuvenate and re-calibrate capacity.
  11. Mental and spiritual awareness are heightened and sharpened by fasting.
  12. Disclipining the “output” of exercise is as important as regulating the “input” of eating.
  13. With some effort and attention, everyone can find a form of physical exercise he or she loves.
  14. Exercise, because of the endorphins it produces, can become a positive physical addiction.
  15. Giving away the half we do not eat increases our motivation even as it feeds our brothers and pleases our Father.
  16. Poetry or other artistic outlets enhance awareness, slow us down, orient us to quality, and increase our discipline.
  17. The horse and bridle metaphor can help us understand, visualize and implement the diet.

Seven Practices of the Physical Diet:

  1. Eat half of your normal three meals a day and one or two half-snacks. Nothing else.
  2. Eat slowly. Sip, savor, and smell, so the half takes as long as the whole used to.
  3. Drink a tall glass of water before each half meal or half snack.
  4. Fast for twenty-four hours once a month.
  5. Exercise aerobically (find a form you love) for at least 20 minutes every day and participate in an actual sport at least five times each fortnight.
  6. Give the equivalent of the half you don’t eat to those in need.
  7. Write one or more poems per week. (Write something in your awareness every day.)

Do you believe these 17 principles? Can you implement these 7 practices? Let your belief in the principles grow your motivation to implement the practices. Work at it! Don’t give up! The results will be there if they are not already. And the results you see on your scales will be just the beginning.

Reducing it All Down To Five Habits

As a final simplification of the physical Half Diet, and lets face it, we all need simplification, lets think of the whole thing as a matter of habits.

Human bodies are amazingly resilient and will withstand a lot of abuse, but some of our bad habits are wearing our bodies down and undermining our health in ways that we don’t notice or recognize as clearly as we should.

And the further it goes, the harder it is to reverse.

We are not talking about alcohol or substance abuse, or about being a total couch potato, or about a diet composed entirely of junk food. People who are doing extreme or dramatic and obvious things to destroy their bodies already know about it and don’t need articles like this to point it out to them.

We are talking about less obvious things—habits we get into that gradually drag us down and wear us out and hurt our ability to feel our best and be at our best for our families. There are five of them:

  1. Chronic dehydration. We don’t drink enough. Or we drink the wrong things. Sodas and diet drinks don’t rehydrate us. Most of us drink less than half of the 8 glasses of water necessary to keep us hydrated. Doctors tell us that most Americans are in some stage of chronic dehydration which undermines the health of our organs, from our skin to our digestive tract.
  1. Fast Eating. It’s not just fast food that gets us, its fast eating. The faster we shovel food in, the less-well we digest it, and the more we eat. Our bites are too big and too rapid. We tend to gulp, gallop and gorge instead of smelling, sipping, and savoring our food. 
  1. Endless Snacking. The problem is that there is always food around us. In the cupboard, on the counter, in the fridge, in the gas station convenience store, in the fast food places we pass, in vending machines. It’s usually high in salt and sugar, low in nutrients. We see it, we eat it.
  2. Huge Portions. We live in the land of super-sizing. Our drinks are too big, our entrées are too big, our plates are too big, our portions are just too big.
  1. Too Much Sitting. 85% of Americans have jobs that are accomplished while sitting, and then we sit in our car or on a train as we commute back and forth, and then we sit on the couch and watch TV, and then we sit at our computers and do social email or answer emails. Sit, sit, sit—not exactly what our bodies were designed to do or what they are improved by doing.

The reason we let ourselves get away with these five bad habits is that their effects on us are very gradual. We don’t just wake up one morning and find ourselves fat, or run down or sick or slow. Everything comes on us gradually. What we have to understand is the definition of “chronic.” Chronic situations are those that become worse over time and that pull us down and limit our potential very slowly.

But the way to change all this is not slow or gradual. The best correction is an immediate one. The best way to break a habit is to drop it!

We can literally stop doing these five things right now!

If we recognize them, and understand their insidious and damaging nature, we can find the motivation to simply stop all five, to reverse them by simply drinking more, eating slower, avoiding or limiting or improving the quality of snacks, sharing meals or reducing portions, and exercising or moving a little more each day. The best way, of course, to break any bad habit is to substitute a good habit for it, and the antithesis of these five bad habits are the five good habits that form the core of the Half Diet:

  1. The Water Habit: Drink a tall glass of water immediately before each of your three daily meals. Besides hydrating you, this fills your stomach and reduces your appetite.
  1. The Slow Habit: Set your fork or spoon down on the table after each bite. This slows down your eating and causes you to enjoy a meal more while actually consuming less.
  1. The Half Habit: Prepare or order whatever meal you want, but only eat half of it. If you are eating out, share your meal with your spouse or friend or take half of it home. If you are eating at home, eat exactly half of your normal portions.
  1. The Snack Habit: Only snack on fruit or vegetables. Except for your three meals, do not eat anything unless it is a fruit or vegetable.
  1. The Move Habit: Devote 20 minutes a day to some kind of aerobic exercise that doubles your normal heart rate. It can be something as simple as a brisk walk or a treadmill or a stationary bike, but do it every day.

These habits take commitment and discipline, but they can actually develop and become part of your life rather quickly! If you do something faithfully for 21 straight days, it becomes a habit.

Start a chart where you check off each of the 5 habits each day. On day one, put a “1” for each of the five that you do that day. On the second day, put a “2”. If you miss a day on one of the habits, start over on your numbering for that habit. Stay with it until you get to 21 consecutive days on each of the 5.

Habit 3 is the heart of this plan because it actually re-celebrates your appetite. Your appetite, you see, has the job of getting a certain amount of nourishment into your body. This can be achieved by eating a large quantity of poor quality food or by eating a small quantity of high quality food. If you exert your discipline and will-power by eating only half of whatever you normally eat, your appetite soon begins to realize that it can’t get large quantities, so it gradually starts craving more quality instead of more quantity, and you begin to find nourishing food more and more appealing while junk food slowly and steadily seems less appealing.

When habits 2 and 3 are combined, the ratios get very interesting: you end up taking about the same time to eat a meal, but you enjoy it twice as much while consuming only half as much.

Habit 1 is the easiest of the 5. You just need to remember to drink a tall glass right before each meal. Having your check-off chart on hand will remind you. Besides helping you eat less, the water will fix the mild but chronic dehydration problem that doctors say most Americans have.

Habits 4 and 5 are just plain hard, especially for the first few days. Because of habit 3, you will feel hungry between meals, and the fruit or vegetable of habit 4 will not be the most tempting snack. But as the days pass and your appetite adjusts from quantity to quality, these natural snacks will look better and better to you. And the saving grace of habit 5 is that exercise, while hard and sometimes boring, is also addictive, and the more consecutive days you do it, the more your body will appreciate the endorphins it releases.

Even as you begin to master the principles, the practices, and the habits of the physical Half Diet, you may start to understand that, as beneficial and useful as this diet body diet is, there is a higher meaning, and what we discipline our bodies to do becomes a strong metaphor and guide for what we can also do with our minds and with our spirit.

The Half Diet is just beginning….next week we will begin to apply the same principles to a “mental diet” that can help us bridle some of the mental appetites that can be as destructive as our physical appetites. Feel free to comment on this and all preceding articles as this series progresses.