Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Bane of Efficiency

"With twelve kids, one would think that there was always chaos, but Dad was an efficiency expert and used all of his methods from work at home during family life. One of the things he did was call family assemblies by blowing a whistle, everyone had to stop what they were doing and come immediately.  "
- Cheaper by the Dozen
A very common New Year's resolution is better fitness and health with more exercise. I was reminded today that an enemy to exercise is efficiency. In olden days most people had physically demanding jobs but today technology makes everything "Less Labor Intensive". Why beat a rug when a Roombot can vacuum for you? Or lead a mule on a plow when you can sit in an air conditioned tractor?

The need for speed and efficiency affects all aspects of our daily life. An old friend from college was amazed to watch drivers searching for the closest spot to park next to the fitness club. Are they afraid of working up a sweat before exercising? My wife had a similar complaint when she used a fitness club for physical therapy, all the therapy spots near the door were filled by healthy fitness patrons who did not want to walk.

I find that instead of making two trips to the basement or kitchen, I'll load up way too much to carry for a single trip. Ditto for carrying groceries from the car to the house. Or at work juggling food and drink back to my cube from the office kitchen instead of walking twice. There are co-workers with giant water bottles so they don't have to revisit the kitchen to refill during the day. Or a giant, all-day, mug of coffee from Duncan Donuts.

Bottom Line

As Michael Jackson says in Billie Jean, "(Do think twice) Do think twice".  Make that second trip. Walk more. Dare to park far away.

And in addition to doing things twice, consider also doing things in halves. That is, eating half-sized portions. I read of a very simple diet where you eat half of your "normal" sized serving and save the 2nd half for another meal. Definitely a good idea at restaurants; they serve way too much food. If you drink a huge soft drink and eat a giant hamburger with an extra large fries, it may contain as many as 2,000 calories in one sitting - more calories them most people need to eat in a single day. Those little hamburgers that now sell for $1 - $1.25 were the original size when "fast food" service began in the 40's. But then came the double burger, the triple, the quarter-pounder, the third of a pounder, etc, along with ever growing sizes of fries and drinks.

And eating half-sizes is not a bad idea at home since our idea of portion size has grown to match the restaurants. A co-worker of mine doesn't just eat the HungryMan, extra-large sized microwave meal, he eats two of them every day for lunch. For more on portion sizes, see my post at

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