Here's part of "Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter, first edition. For newer info, read the second edition at

Get thin

The main thing that average American can do to improve health is: get thin!

How fat are you?

The government recommends your waist be no more than 35 inches if female, 40 inches if male. (If you’re very short, for example because you’re very young, your waist should be a lot smaller than that.)

When measuring your waist, don’t cheat! Measure straight around; don’t dip to avoid the bulge.

Your waist size is more important than your weight, because fat in your belly is more destructive than fat in your legs. Fat in your legs tends to stay there and not bother the rest of your body, but fat in your belly area is more active, closer to your organs (especially your liver), and enters your bloodstream more easily.

Why does the average woman live longer than the average man? Probably because the average woman is thinner (and engages in fewer dangerous activities, such as the military and other “dare you” games & occupations).


According to Einstein’s E=MC2, even an atomic-bomb-size blast consumes just a small amount of matter. So even the most vigorous exercise doesn’t directly reduce weight.

To reduce weight, your body must excrete more matter than it consumes; so to lose weight, you must eat & drink less than you shit, piss, and sweat.

How exercise helps Although exercise doesn’t make you lose weight directly, it makes you lose weight indirectly — because exercise makes you sweat, piss, and shit more without making you want to eat and drink much more.

Although exercise won’t change your weight much, it will make your weight be better proportioned: you’ll have a bigger percentage of muscle and a smaller percentage of fat. Your arms and legs will bulge with muscles and your belly will shrink. Moreover, exercise will raise your HDL (which is good). Better yet, exercise will burn off any excess sugar in your blood. By getting rid of that extra sugar, exercise helps you avoid or control diabetes.

Exercising removes water from your body (via sweat and piss), but “removing water” is not your goal: you goal is to remove belly fat. Sip a little water while exercising — and before and after — to avoid dehydrating, because a dehydrated body has trouble controlling its own temperature and accidentally wrecks itself.

Here are other ways that exercise helps you lose weight:

While you exercise you’re not eating. Better to exercise than to sit on your couch watching TV and munching potato chips.

While you exercise, you tend to feel good about yourself; you’re not depressed. Depressed people want to eat junk food.

Kinds of exercise Try walking (because it’s easy, pleasant, and exercises your bottom half), push ups (because they exercise your top half), and swimming (because it exercises your whole body and is fun).

You don’t need to do a marathon. Three short walks per day help your health just as much as one long walk. Walking a mile helps your health nearly as much as running a mile, though running has the advantage of taking less time, so you can get on with the rest of your life. “A mile per day” is the minimum amount necessary to make a noticeable difference in your health; “a mile and a half” is even better.

Any kind of exercise is better than nothing. Some people find “gardening” a pleasant form of exercise. The dare-to-be-different crowd gets exercise by taking the stairs instead of “escalators and elevators” and by parking in the farthest parking spot instead of the closest — though “walking through parking lots” isn’t the most scenic way to get exercise.


To lose weight safely, consume fewer calories. Each gram of fat you eat provides 9 calories, whereas each gram of protein or carbohydrate provides just 4 calories; so the main way to consume fewer calories is to consume less fat.

Make sure you consume fewer saturated fats. But even the best fats, the “unsaturated fats,” still provide 9 calories per gram, so eat fewer unsaturated fats too!

Most nutritionists make these recommendations:

Get most of your calories from carbohydrates.

Get about 12% of your calories from protein.

Get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.

Get less than 30% of your calories from fat. (Make most of that fat be unsaturated. Eat little or no trans fat. Get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.)


Many foods are advertised as being “fat-free,” but most of them still contain lots of sugar. Since plain sugar provides calories without providing good nutrients, plain sugar is called empty calories and is bad for you. Avoid it. These other simple sugars are also empty calories and should be avoided: corn syrup (which comes from corn), fructose (which comes from fruit), and honey.

Don’t binge

To lose weight, the main trick is: don’t binge. Don’t eat large portions of anything. Here’s why:

Your body needs just tiny quantities of most vitamins and minerals. Eating bigger quantities of them doesn’t help. In fact, some vitamins and minerals become toxic if you take an overdose.

Your body can tolerate small quantities of toxins, but bigger quantities are dangerous.

No single food has all the kinds of vitamins and minerals you need, so eat a variety of foods, a little of each.

Nutritionists have discovered many hundreds of vitamins, minerals, and other helpful substances in plants. Though a vitamin pill can be a useful supplement, no single pill provides the incredibly wide variety of helpful chemicals that a well-balanced diet provides.


If you eat a huge meal, your pancreas will have trouble producing enough insulin to digest all those sugars and starches at once. Instead, eat several smaller meals (or small healthy snacks), spaced throughout the day.

If you have diabetes (a pancreas unable to produce enough useful insulin), eating smaller meals is necessary. If you don’t have diabetes yet, eating smaller meals is still desirable — because if you overwork your pancreas often, it will gradually get tired, quit working some year, and you’ll have diabetes then and forevermore.

Once you have diabetes, you can control it (by making sure you always eat small meals) but never cure it.

Nutritionists predict that 1/3 of all Americans will get diabetes before death. The best way to prevent diabetes is to eat small meals, get exercise, and lose weight.

When you eat more sugars and starch than your pancreas can handle, the excess stays in your blood, makes your blood vessels sticky, and wrecks the blood vessels in your eyes (leading to blindness), feet (leading to numbness, unnoticed cuts, infection, and eventual amputation), and kidneys (leading to kidney failure so you spend the rest of your life on a dialysis machine).

Afraid to look thin?

Unfortunately, Americans in this century are fatter than Americans were in the 1900’s or 1800’s or 1700’s. That’s because Americans get less exercise (they drive cars instead of walk, play videogames instead of real sports), eat more junk food (McDonald’s instead of Mom’s cooking), and many other reasons that are obvious. But here’s a reason that’s not so obvious: some people (especially inner-city blacks) are afraid to look thin, because they’re afraid that if they look thin, they’ll look like they have AIDS, and their friends will fear them and they won’t get dates.

Such people are misinformed and need to be reminded that it’s better to be a toothpick than a blimp.


Nutritionists recommend that you be semi-vegetarian: make ¾ of your dinner plate be filled with plants (vegetables, fruit, and high-fiber grains), and just ¼ of your plate come from animals (fish, meat, and dairy). That will give you a wide variety of nutrients and less fat.

Thinning diets

Many people have invented fad diets that claim crazy eating can make you thin. Each fad diet has a “catch”:

Some of those diets let you eat whatever you wish but in small quantities.

Other diets let you eat as much as you wish but only of certain foods.

Most fad diets make you lose weight by being so unappetizing that you want to eat less.

Some diets let you lose 5 or 10 pounds during the first two weeks, but that’s just from losing water, not fat. The next two weeks are harder.

Most diets also tell you to get more exercise. If you claim that the diet “didn’t work,” the diet vendors reply, “You can’t sue us, since you didn’t follow our exercise plan.”

Nutritionists agree that the best way to get thin is to eat normally but with less saturated fat, smaller portions, and more variety.

The trick is to feel full while consuming fewer calories. Since calories come from “fat, protein, and carbohydrates,” eat food containing mainly water & fiber instead.

Some fad diets, such as the Atkins Diet, made the mistake of telling you to avoid all carbohydrates and eat fats instead. Here’s the truth:

The carbohydrates in vegetables and high-fiber grains are fine for a healthy diet; just avoid refined grains (such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice).

Unsaturated fats are okay in moderation, but avoid saturated fats.

The Atkins diet was later modified to say that certain carbohydrates are okay (and don’t count in “net carbs”), but Atkins advice to eat lots of fat is totally wrong. Nutritionists agree that of all the fad diets, the Atkins Diet is the unhealthiest and the South Beach Diet is the healthiest, but even the South Beach Diet is slightly off-kilter.

Just get exercise, eat a variety of food (especially vegetables), and avoid binging (especially on fats, cakes, and sweets). Then you’ll be fine!

Soup Since soup contains mainly water, it makes you feel full without adding many calories. (Just make sure it’s not a “cream” soup, since cream is high in calories.)

Nutritionists have discovered a bizarre fact about soup: water in soup makes you feel fuller than water in a glass, even though it’s the same water. If you’re served chicken and a glass of water, you’ll feel less full than if the water was dumped on the chicken to become soup. When the water is dumped on the chicken to make soup, your eye says “that’s a lot of soup!” and you feel full just looking at it!

Just beware of salt: many canned soups contain too much salt.

Fruit Fresh fruit is like soup: it contains mainly water and makes you feel full without adding many calories.

If you eat 30 raisins (dried grapes) while drinking water, you’ll still feel hungry; but if you eat 30 fresh grapes instead, you’ll feel full, even though the ingredients are the same.

Fruit also contains fiber and lots of nutrients.

Bran cereal For breakfast, try eating bran cereal. Since it’s high in fiber, it makes you feel full without adding many calories. Nutritionists have discovered that people who eat a high-fiber breakfast still feel full, many hours later, whereas people who eat a low-fiber breakfast feel hungry again 2 hours later.

Though bran cereal is good for you, bran muffins are bad, since bran muffins usually include lots of fats added to the bran.

Potato Nutritionists have discovered that the best vegetable for making you “feel full without many calories” is potato.

Just make sure you include the skin (to get its nutrition), cut out any tubers sprouting out (because they’re poisonous), and avoid fatty toppings (such as butter or sour cream). If possible, bake the potato (instead of frying it) or make a potato soup.

Watermelon Another obvious candidate for “full with minimal calories” is watermelon. It contains lots of water and — like all fruits — some fiber.

Black Irish diet If you want to try a fad diet, try mine: it consists of eating mainly potatoes and watermelons. If you wish, try that diet for a week (supplemented by vitamin pills and a few other vegetables to keep you balanced). I call it the Black Irish diet, because it combines the food loved by stereotypical blacks (watermelon) with the food loved by stereotypical Irishmen (potatoes). Here’s why the diet is good:

Of all vegetables, potatoes are the best at making you feel full on few calories.

Potatoes make you feel you’ve eaten heartily.

Watermelon makes you feel your eating was fun.

Potatoes and watermelon are both healthy foods.

Potatoes and watermelon are both cheap. This is the cheapest diet you can get!


So after all that preaching, am I a good example? Am I thin?

Not yet. I guess I’d better start taking my own advice!