The Ownership Principle
Book Excerpt: Lean For Life, Chapter VIII (by Clarence Bass)
Clarence Bass: Excerpts From Bodybuilding and Fitness Books and Columns
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 way.
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 principle.
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.