by Henry Lane Hull

Over 20 years ago the writer, Remar Sutton, produced a yearlong series of updates on his progress in shedding unwanted pounds. Each week I enthusiastically read his observations, and then tried to follow his methods to reach that elusive world of “slimdom.” When the series concluded, I was pleased by my success and grateful for his literary guidance.

Thereafter, I learned firsthand the meaning of the word “backslide.” Slowly, I got back in the habit of unearned snacks (I did not steal them!), large desserts (delicious, but not what the dietician would have prescribed), and multiple slices of great French bread (which de rigueur requires lots of whole butter). The slide went on for years, with my not noticing it, or pretending not to be conscious of it.

This past New Year’s Day I returned to my latent Suttonist regimen, setting goals and adhering to them without making flimsy excuses for second helpings. The results have been “Remar—kable.” My first step was to ban desserts on weekdays, indulging only on Sundays. Second, I found that half of a baked potato is sufficient. It can be enjoyed best with more herbs and less butter, but I do use an olive oil-butter combination which is far less caloric. Third, I do not consume cholesterol until after 6 p.m.

My theory in that regard is, if food has cholesterol, it is bound to be fattening. For years I have not eaten meat, but being a Northern Necker, crabs, oysters and fish will keep me from ever becoming a vegan. I also enjoy eggs, hard-boiled, poached or in cooking, but not fried.

“Grease” might have been a good movie, but bared of the quotation marks, it is the enemy of a sound diet.

The initial 10 pounds were slow in coming off, but once I was in the proper mindset, away they went. In the process I crossed the Rubicon, i.e., I went under 200, and the decline is continuing. I have found that exercise is important, but not the type of physical exertion that most diets and gym instructors advocate. For me, the most successful exercise for successful weight loss is the strengthening the triceps muscles three times a day.

Part of the problem in weight control rests on people over-exercising their biceps muscles to the detriment of their triceps. For weight loss, proper exercise of the triceps is essential; in that regard no feasible goal is achievable without strong triceps. Put in layman’s terms, the biceps pull one to the table three times a day, whereas the triceps push one away. This year I might not have accomplished much in the building up of my biceps, but my triceps are now of exemplary quality.

Other forms of exercise are important as well. Our first human exercise was walking, which remains the basic form of exertion in any regime. A mile a day is the bare bones, but two is more rewarding. Earlier in life I liked to jog and run, the high point of which activity was running a marathon in my 30s. I trained for it for nine months, and when the day arrived, I found the run to be virtually effortless. When I finished the 26.2 miles, I felt as if I could have gone on far longer.

The name “marathon” comes from the Greek, meaning a field of the herb, fennel. In 490 B.C, after the Athenian army, although decisively outnumbered, defeated the Persian invaders at Marathon, a herald named Pheidippides ran the distance to Athens to inform the city of the victory. Legend holds that he died upon arriving. Fortuitously, my marathon experience was less traumatic. Perhaps I was in better shape than poor Pheidippides, but of a certitude, I was much slower.

A physics professor I knew liked to say that “Physics is phun.” I can say the same (with a different spelling) for dieting. It is a satisfying hobby that contributes to better health, longevity and peace of mind. To garner all the benefits of a good diet, at the next meal start exercising your triceps muscles. The practice works every time.