Less Is More, More Or Less

dinner plate with pea

I’ve been letting this expression of “less is more” fester in my brain for many days. For me, it is becoming an ever-more-true maxim that applies to so many areas in my life. I did a quick Web search on the term, and boom! — up pops up an essay from The Minimalists, of course. I like the paradox they raise, that less is more AND more is less. On that note, here is just a bit of what I have been practicing of late on this front.

Less Food

I think we all know by now that smaller food portions lead to us being thinner. We can debate whether a calorie is a calorie or not, but at some point the laws of physics take over and a calorie is most definitely a measurable unit of energy.

Since the beginning of the year I have reduced my caloric intake and have lost more than 20 pounds. No Paleo. No Weight Watchers. No low carb. No food combining. No veganism. Oh trust me  I’ve adopted all of these approaches in the past, and there is something to learn from each of them. But what worked for me this time was simple, old-school calorie measurement and daily weigh-ins.

In the process I have gained significantly more health as measured by lower blood pressure, lower total cholesterol, and better cholesterol ratio and blood glucose readings that have transformed me from the so-called danger zone to healthy. In fact my doctor told me I’m among the five percent of her patients who actually listened to her. My motivation was clear – I want to be around for a long time if I have anything to do with it, and I don’t want to be popping daily doses of statins and blood pressure pills for at least a few more decades.

“Oh come on, Steve. Live a little. It’s the holidays for f’s sakes!” Actually I want to live a LOT with huge levels of vibrancy and energy.

For me this is more.

Less Food Variety

What if some dieting experts have it all wrong? What if less food variety is more? What if one can thrive simply by eating several cups of raw or lightly cooked green vegetables per day, augmented by a cup or two of complex carbs (think oatmeal, brown rice, etc.) and four to five ounces of lean animal protein per day?

Or you could turn it up to crazy and eat the way Chris Voigt did a few years ago. He ate nothing but potatoes for 60 days and got healthier in the process. OK, as Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission he may be slightly biased. And yes it’s extreme and probably ill advised for periods longer than a couple of months.

Less Exercise Variety

Running. Pull ups. Push ups. Sit ups. Squats. Inverted rows. Burpees. Planks. Walking. Stretching. And a very small and slow amount of biking. That’s a whole week of workouts with almost no indoor gym machinery involved, save for a pull up bar. No classes. No trainers. And no tracking. The routine is so boring and monotonous it could make you scream. And that’s just what I love. We have been roaming this planet for 200,000 years. Given that I’m not a professional athlete, do I really need so much complexity when it comes to physical activity?

Less News Variety

I have written about how we can all do just fine on a diet of much less news in our lives. Accordingly, I’ve gone from voracious consumption of multiple information sources and many costly subscriptions, to an Economist subscription as well as the Washington Post, because Jeff Bezos is nearly giving it away to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Less Entertainment

A few years ago I was considered the neighborhood lunatic for cancelling our DirecTV service. Now I’m a lunatic in good company. I haven’t even gotten around to watching Season 2 of “House of Cards” yet, because I wonder if even doing absolutely nothing but staring at a wall is a better use of my time and mental capacity than watching dozens of hours of TV that I won’t remember or even discuss in a year.

Fewer Possessions

And oh yes, let’s talk about possessions. I keep whittling away at them. Why do I need 20 cookbooks when three will do? Why do I need a full closet of clothes when I wear the same four-to-five tops and bottoms repeatedly? Why do we need a 3,000 square foot house for three people when I grew up in a 2,200 square foot home that housed five people?

If I declare a “War Against Clutter,” I know I’ll lose it, sort of like how that “War on Drugs” has been going for us. Therefore I have declared a “March to Feng Shui” with less clutter as the theme, and am chipping away at it every day.

And Now A Tip for You — Less Work Bologna

A smaller number of goals BUT…ones that are much more crazily ambitious. Shorter meetings. Less frequent meetings. Shorter emails. Fewer slides. Fewer gossipy conversations. More time spent creating, innovating and making an impact. What a more wonderful work world THIS would be.

The End Game

Here’s the thing. Isn’t what’s perceived to be so “hard” because we limit variety, cut down on indulgences, and delay gratification very often the best thing for clearing our minds and adding to our net worth? This enables us to focus with more intention and awareness on what we want, which includes contributing more to those around us. And it leads to a simpler life. I love simple. The paradox is that it’s often not “easy” to get to simple. 

And isn’t what’s perceived to be so easy very often a killer for us in the long term?

It is becoming just a bit easier for me to take the seemingly harder road every time. And I’m still awash in abundance and appreciating every moment of it.

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