Archive for diet

GiS Podcast Episode 4 – Desk Jockey Nutrition

This week, I continue with with the second part of the Desk Jockey health and fitness series with Desk Jockey Nutrition. Below, I list 3 tips to clean up your eating habits at the office.

You can listen here or subscribe to the local podcast feed or through iTunes. I would also appreciate it if you would leave a review on iTunes if you enjoy what you hear.

 

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Tip 1 – Force your hand

Photo courtesy of Cayusa on Flickr

I’m not going to try to stop you from snacking at the office, in fact I believe small healthy snacks are important to a healthy diet, that is of course, assuming you didn’t just scarf down a few thousand calories at the meat and three down the road.   The problem with office snacking is that it is sooo easy to over-snack.  You may even go for a healthy snack, like a jar of almonds, thinking you are doing good. But when you are at the office, it is too easy to focus on other things and forget about your left hand going back and forth between a pile of food and your mouth.

So, try limiting what you eat by forcing a little bit of portion control (I think that’s a prince song … no wait, that is about totally different):

  • Instead of taking an entire box of granola bars to work with you, bring only one in at a time and leave the box in your car.
  • Buy the 100 calorie snack size popcorn bags instead of the full size
  • When you buy almonds or pretzels or chips, also buy a package of ziplock bags. Portion out the snack into these bags as soon as you open them. You can measure them out into exact serving sizes or just estimate.

This way, you will never lose track of how much you are eating because you get busy doing other things. You are taking away the bottomless pit of snack food.  Sure, you might have more snacks available, but you will have to stop what you are doing to get them, which gives you time to make a conscious decision about how much you eat.

Tip 2 – Bring your lunch from home or make a mini-kitchen at work

Photo courtesy of leff on Flickr

I don’t think I have to tell you how bad going out to eat is for you. Most places give you gigantic portions and load the dishes with way too much salt, fat, and EVIL! So, get rid the need to go out for lunch by bringing your lunch with you. Bring a simple, healthy sandwich or a fresh salad — whatever you like that would remove the desire to go out to eat.

It is that desire to go out to eat is the hardest thing to fight off – Why stay in and eat your bland bowl of soup when you can sample the international cuisine at the nearest food court?

So if you have a problem with food boredom, you can go one step further when brining your lunch to work, by bringing in enough food to make a mini-kitchen at your office. Bring in some some fresh deli meat and cheese, bread, peanut butter, jelly, fresh salad mix, or whatever you prefer.

Give yourself enough variety at the office that you are not tempted to go out.

Even bring your office mates in on this and start a “sandwich bar” where everyone pitches in on the food. The more people that contribute, the more variety you will have. Plus, you’ll have less people asking you to go out to lunch every day.

Like I mentioned in Episode 2, bringing your lunch also allows you to claim your normal lunch hour to do healthy activities.  Eat while you work and then go for a long walk during the time you would have spent driving somewhere or waiting in line at the cafeteria.

Tip 3 – Leave you dollar bills at home

Photo courtesy of EricGjerde on Flickr

If your break room vending machines are anything like mine, there is not a single healthy snack to choose from.  No – Honeybuns are not healthy – you know that – but they sure look tasty when you’re bleary eyed from 6 hours of hacking away at code. I would love to say I have all will power in the world, but some work tasks can break me down to believe that a plastic wrapper full of sugar and fat is just what I need to make it through the rest of the afternoon.

To fight this – I leave all change and small bills at my house or in my car. If I am at a low enough point that I am willing to dive into vending machine snacks, there is a good chance that I’m not up for the trek around the office to try to break a twenty – I’ll settle for my pre-portioned baggie of pretzels.

You might have notices that all three tips followed the same primary principle:

Deliberately put obstacles between yourself and over-sized, unhealthy food and remove obstacles to properly portioned, healthy food.

It’s that simple. Office nutrition isn’t rocket science, even if that is what you do at the office

While I don’t talk about finances much, I can’t sign off without mentioning the monetary benefits to these tips as well. The buckets of money that normally went to my dining budget drastically shrunk. I also realized that I could pay for my gym membership just buy saving all of the dollars I spent on sodas and chips during the day at work – that attacked my weight problem from two fronts from one simple, budget-neutral change. That make dollars and sense! (You see what I did there?)

Fitness Achievements, Where Are You?

Why is it we spend so much time on this mundane game mechanic known as achievements?  Wait, I know the answer…

BECAUSE IT’S MY CRACK AND I WANT MORE ACHIEVEMENT POINTS THAN YOU NOOB!!!1!

While I have limited myself in the last few months (I just earned the Father of Two achievement), I always seem to get stuck on this simple game mechanic.  Achievements in World of Warcraft and Mafia Wars, Medals in Farmville, traits in Lord of the Rings online, the mayor-ship and badge system in FourSquare and Gowalla.  I will kill the Eff out of some boars just to get the next achievement, and I will spend waste a lot of time doing it. Which led me to a realization that there is a total lack of this addictive mechanic in online fitness tracking world, where it could provide a big benefit.  Daily burn has medals that display on your profile when you win a challenge, which is similar, but it is not as autonomous as I would like to see. If I and many others will happily do nothing to get a little “ding” that means nothing in a game that (let’s face it) means nothing, why wouldn’t the same psychological boost help motivate me to do a little extra during my workout?

So I think I will use this post to propose just a few fitness achievement that would fit in great in the average fitness tracking site.  Of course you will have your basics: lost 10 pounds, lost 20 pounds, ran 5k, etc), but I prefer to take the World of Warcraft approach in coming up with these, which means that there are a few achievements that are obvious, but most try to throw in humor and pop culture references. Also, some of these are negative achievements that you don’t want to get.

  • A Friend of Tortoises – Walk one mile or less  in 30 minutes or longer
  • Go Speed Walker, Go! – Walk a mile in less than 10 minutes
  • A Proclaimer Part 1 - Walk 500 miles (does not have to be all at once)
  • A Proclaimer Part 2 – Walk 500 more (that’s a 100o total) Da-da-da-da.
  • Girly Man – Bench press exactly 45 pounds (that’s the bar alone)
  • Lost My Sit! (-ups) – Do 6 sets of sit ups with the following rep counts: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23,  42
  • Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it – Eat more than 4000 calories in a single day
  • Noob – Win 1 fitness challenge
  • 1337 – Win 25 fitness challenges
  • Cylon Prototype – You weight 87 pounds.
  • Greg Kinnear Would be Proud – You ate a bowl of soup
  • John Henson Would be Proud – You ate a second bowl of soup in the same day
  • Joel McHale Would be Proud – You really need to lay off the soup

These are just a few silly ideas, but I was having fun coming up with them.  The more I thought about these for this post, the more I wished that someone would implement this system, because I would love to be surprised these pop-up as I logged my work outs and food.  It would give me a reason to log more.  It would even give me a reason to change up my workout, or give it that extra umph to earn an achievement.  I love these little bits that might lighten up the tough process of losing weight, while at the same time, gives you a reason to work harder.

Do you have a fun fitness achievement ideas?  Leave me a comment.

Agile Health and Fitness: Part 1 – The Manifesto

Image curtesy of Dashu Pagla

Image courtesy of Dashu Pagla

I was reading a post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits about sticking to a meal plan, and I immediately recognized the same patterns and thought processes that I follow at work everyday doing agile software development.  When I was first introduced to the agile frame of mind, it seemed to fit with the way I imagined software was supposed to be developed.  But this article helped me realize how easily agile practices can be applied to our everyday health and fitness.  Instead of building software to meet requirements, we are executing a plan to meet our health and fitness goals.  I thought I would start a series of posts related to this topic, with the first post starting with the basics: the values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development itself.

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Since the text above is primarily referring to a team of people and a customer of some sort, I will narrow the scope of the statement to be “Individual and Self-Interaction.”  What this means, is that is is much more important to be honest with yourself when it comes to your own well being.  It the world of health, you are your main customer (wife is a close second).  You have to acknowledge the fact that you are responsible for your destiny, and the more often you interact with yourself (that’s called thinking) about your requirements, goals, and progress, the better chance you will have at meeting your expectations.  This does not mean processes (workout plans and diets) and tools (exercise equipment and nutrition trackers) are not important, but they will only take you as far as you allow them to take you.  So next time your office-mate waves a box of Thin Mints in your face, make sure to do a little self-interaction and say NO!

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

Well of course we aren’t talking software here, so I will relate working software to your intermediate and end goals and I will relate comprehensive documentation to your exercise and nutrition logs you keep along the way.  I know I have preached the importance of tracking your fitness results in past articles, and I still do; however, the more important thing is making significant progress against your health goals.  If you want to lose 10 pounds, it is much more important to meet that end goal that to track every step along the way.  That being said, I believe that the end goal can be met faster by constant progress updates, which can be obtained by keeping those metrics along the way.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation &
4. Responding to change over following a plan

When applying these rules to health and fitness, it is easier to take the last two statements together.  Earlier, I mentioned that you are your main customer for your own health.  It is critical you are constantly reiterating to yourself what your goals are, what your health requirements are.  You may try to set a goal up front, a contract for your future health.  You may develop a plan to meet those goals, and that is great.  But the more important thing is to allow yourself room to modify your goals and your plan as things change.  In the world of health and fitness, the requirements (goals) don’t change as much as new requirements come in and take priority (baby, work, 6 seasons of Lost).  Always reassess what is important to you and be flexible in your plans to adjust to any changes in goals you might impose on yourself or changes in the environment you are in trying to meet those goals.  On a deeper-dive into the day-to day planning, response to change is a key to meeting the individual milestones to meet you goals.  If you are training for a 5k and mother nature decides to dump two weeks of rain on you, don’t just push off your schedule and miss your “deadlines.”  Go to the gym and hop on a treadmill, go buy some water resistant clothes and water-proof ear-buds and go running in the rain, or just change the workout to something new altogether.  Just be agile.

Final scratches

I know all of this is obvious.  But it is sometimes easy to forget the priorities to meet our goals.  Remember, the priority is to meet the goal, not to do it perfectly to a plan and have every calorie and mile mapped out. Just get out there and do it.

I plan on going into more detail on some of the 12 Principles of agile software in a future post, so stay tuned.

The Importance of Tracking

There are some things people consistently track in life, such as bank transactions, hours worked against tasks for work, or the number of jelly bellys my daughter has put up her nose.  Why do we do this?  Easy… So we can have knowledge and control over these things:

  • So I know how much money I have and where my money is going.
  • So I know how long a work task has taken in the past so I can estimate and schedule better in the future.
  • So I can know whether my daughter still has jelly bellies in her nose.

The ability to track these things give us the knowledge to set our limits for the coming days, weeks, months, or years.  It also gives us the insight into what has helped and hurt us in the past.  This knowledge is what is needed to stay in control of the critical things that define how we live and work.

Tracking your fitness and nutrition is no different.  In fact, it is probably more important that the examples above.  The ability for us to know our progress and see our current status gives us the power to control our body and meet our goals.  I want to show some examples from my personal experience to help bring my point home.

Tracking Body Weight

Rollercoaster! Of fat. Say What!?

Roller coaster! Of weight... Say What!? Roller coaster! Hoo Hoo Hoo!

Look at my body tracking chart.  You can clearly see the a trend:  The time periods I consistently tracked my weight (look for the clusters of dots), I lost weight.  The time periods that I took a break from tracking my weight, I gained weight.  I found out, that during the time periods in which I went more than a week without recording my weight, I gained an average of 1.5 pounds.  During the time periods that I consistently tracked my weight, I lost about 2.5 pounds.  Even during the times that I tracked when I wasn’t dieting or I wasn’t consistently exercising, I could easily see if I was gaining weight.  I knew I needed to to make adjustments in my diet that week or step up the workouts.  The simple knowledge of what was going on helped me make smarter decisions.

Tracking Nutrition

Photo courtesy of Clint M Chilcott

Photo courtesy of Clint M Chilcott

The same type of knowledge applies to tracking what you eat.  One of my friends was having a hard time losing weight.  They exercised consistently, around 5 times a week for 30+ minutes a session, but they were stuck at being a little heavier than they should be.  They had plateaued.  One day I suggested they start tracking what they ate during the day, and the results were surprising to them.  They were unknowingly taking in ~2500 calories each day,  which is not bad in itself given the amount of exercising they were doing, but most of their calories were from fat and carbs.  They thought they ate somewhat healthy… at least not unhealthy… But when they actually paid attention to what they were eating, they realized they needed to change.  They knew which of their favorite foods was hurting them, and which foods were helping them.  Once they modified their eating habits, they crushed through the plateau and was back on their way to their goal.

Motivation

I am, admittedly, not very consistent in my fitness endeavors.  I believe this to be true for most people as well.  We all have great intentions and hit the ground running, and somehow fizzle into old, bad habits.   I don’t have any good solutions for this problem, but the one thing I strongly recommend is to keep on tracking.  Who cares if you didn’t work out for a week and slipped on your diet.  Log your weight.  Log your calories.  Continue to track your weight and your food intake no matter what.  This way, when you start slipping, you recognize it much quicker.  You are much less likely to stray too far from the course.  You are constantly aware of your current status, your progress towards your goals, your weak spots in your fitness routine, and most importantly, your triumphs.  Knowing these things will continue to motivate you to be better, because, as Sir Francis Bacon once said, knowledge is power.  Mmmmm. Bacon.  No wait, bacon would put me over my calorie limit for the day… See.  Knowledge.

Where To Go From Here

So how do you start tracking your weight and nutrition.  Well it’s as easy as a pen and paper. … Ha!  Did I just say to use a pen and paper!  Don’t be crazy!  What is this, the 90s?  Ha!

There are many other ways to do this in the modern world.  I’ll list a few:

I personally suggest Gyminee.  I have used this one for a while now and absolutely love it.  But it doesn’t really matter which one you choose to use, as long as you consistently use it.  Most of these services offer a mobile option as well so you can log what your eating in real time (wives and girlfriends love it when you ignore them for your iPhone… trust me).  So what are you waiting for?  Get started!

Brrrrr, It’s Cold.

courtesy of Christmas w/a K

courtesy of Christmas w/a K

I’m having moderate success with my daily exercise commitment.  I’ve managed to exercise a little bit every day since the beginning of the year.  I’m feeling more energized during the day and I feel a little stronger than when I started.  That’s the good from this.

Now for the bad.  It’s cold.  When it’s cold like this, I have zero desire to get out and do some appropriate cardio.  Also, when I’m stuck inside I tend to eat more.  I’m eating better than I used to, but my calorie intake isn’t low enough to yield weight loss.  My weight is basically just holding steady.

So, in summary:  I’m still exercising daily.  It’s not enough.  I’m eating too much.  My weight is holding steady.

Frustrated

Courtesy of ShutterMoth

Here we are.  Another year has gone by and I still have the same top priority resolution on my list, losing weight.  Last year I managed to end the year losing about 20 pounds, but I fell short of my goal to lose 45 pounds.  At one point I was only 15 pounds away from my goal, but I fell off the wagon and gained some back.

Failing is really rough on me.  With everything else in my life, I’ve been able to do what I’ve put my mind to.  Why is losing weight so different?  I wish I knew; I suppose I’d be a rich man if I did.  All I can do is keep trying.  Eventually something has to stick, right?

Last year wasn’t a total failure.  I did manage to lose some weight.  I was doing good for the first 3/4 of the year.  After that I stopped exercising and let my diet go a little bit.  I didn’t fall all the way into my old terrible eating habits, but I did slack a bit.  The lesson for me there is that I have to stay diligent.  I’ve come to accept that this is going to be a life long struggle for me.  My father was overweight and never got a hold of his problem.  He died at the age of 41.  I can’t let that become my fate.

Here’s to a new year and a new struggle.  I wish the best to you and yours.  Stay tuned, this just may be the year when I reach my goal.  You wouldn’t want to miss that, now would you?