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?)

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!

Online Fitness Tracking Face Off: Traineo vs. Gyminee

One of the most important things to do when starting to lose weight is keeping a good journal of what you are doing and what you plan to do.  While this is one of the best methods for meeting your goals, it always been the most tedious part of the whole routine.   Like a lot of people, I live for the here and now and only look forward.  While I recognize the benefit of maintaining important data, the time needed to keep that log and maintain it just seems pointless.  Well… no more.  In the age of Web 2.0, RIAs, and kick ass mobile devices, keeping track of your workout routine is no longer a hassle.  It’s now fun and motivating.  There are a TON of online (and offline) fitness tracking applications, including FitDay, Online Fitness Log, and even WeightWatchers. Today, we will be looking at two free online apps: Traineo and Gyminee.

Part 1: Traineo.com

George's Traineo Homepage

I really like Traineo’s design.  It is slick, easy to navigate, and even easier to use.  After you set up your account and set your goals, you can easily see your progress in the upper right hand corner.  You are able to quickly, and I mean quickly, enter your weight and workouts for the day and see you progress on a pretty graph.  The workout entry system is extremely simple: “What did you do today?”  “Crunches, 10 min, it was hard.”  You are limited to 3 workouts a day though.  So if you like mixing it up by walking, running, weight training, and making love (yes, making love is considered a workout), you are going to have to leave something off.  You can also make custom logs, such as distance run or … Cans of Tuna?  Hmmm, I guess that is useful…?  Traineo also has a nice group system in which you can join together with others that have similar goals and interests and motivate each other via the groups’ forums.  Where I feel Traineo is lacking is in it nutrition tracking system.  It gives you two sliders: How did you eat today, poor->outstanding.  And how many calories did you eat.  It then gives you a link to the USDA food database.  I think this is a weak way to track your nutrition.  This means I will have to keep track of food all day on …. *gasp* pen and paper, and then enter it at the end of the night or the next day.  Overall, Traineo is a great site.

Part 2: Gyminee.com

George's Gyminee Homepage

Gyminee has a great design.  Big links for the major site areas make for easy navigation with drop down menus to get you to the sub sections.  The “Locker Room” shows you your weight (with a really nice graph), your goal, and a quick way to tell whether you have met your fitness and nutrition goals.  You can also see your Gym Friends’ status and enter quick journals.  You can set what workouts you want to do, walking or the Hundred Pushups challenge, for example.  You then track the progress you have made on each workout.  Where Gyminee really shines is the nutrition tracking.  It has a quick search for foods and their nutritional facts, very quick and tons of foods in the database.  You can add each food item you eat for the day and it will track the calorie intake and give you a breakdown of where your calories are coming from… very nice.  Gyminee also has groups with forums and challenges, where you can challenge your friends or the community to different competitions, such as weight lost, distance ran, pounds benched, etc.  Oh, did I mention Twitter integration and an iPhone app?  Gyminee also maintains a great fitness and nutrition blog.

Part 3: Face-off

Category Traineo Gyminee Aditional Comments
Design

It’s a tie! Both sites have a great design. They are organized well and are easy on the eyes.
Navigation

I’m going to have to give it to Gyminee on this one. Gyminee has one set of bold menus with drop down sub menus vs. Traineo’s 3 rows of different menus. That being said, neither site was hard to work through, so this decision was made on my personal preference.
Weight Tracking

Both site make tracking your current weight and your weight goal a breeze. One thing I like about Traineo’s weight graph is it scales the Y-Axis to the weight values you have entered. So my 3lb. loss over the last week looks like a very happy downward sloping line. This is very motivating. Gyminee, on the other hand, scales the graph to include your target weight goal, so my 3lb loss looks like nothing on the graph spanning 30 pounds, but I do like the fact that I can visually see my progress towards my goal. They both have their benefits, and I’m conflicted on which I like best, so…. A tie!
Workout Tracking

Once again both sites have their pros and cons, and it depends on what you are looking for. Traineo makes entering your workouts so simple. Click a workout, rate your exertion, then click OK. Gyminee is a little more complex, but with that complexity comes some great features. For example, to tell Gyminee you have done some exercise, you have to choose or create a workout for that exercise. Then you can submit your progress towards that workout. This just seems like two many steps to record that I walked a mile.  However, the benefits of doing it this way is that you can choose or create workout plans that lay out how exactly many miles or minutes you want to run, how much weight or how many reps you want to curl, etc. For me, having this forethought into my workout just brings me so much more motivation.  Instead of printing out my Couch-to-5K routine, I can just go look at what I am supposed to do on Gyminee.  But I can’t discount the benefits of just how easy Traineo is to record with no prior setup. Once again, a tie.
Diet Tracking

No question for me, Gyminee wins this. The ability to break down your calorie intake and specify the exact foods you eat (and also choose your favorite food for even quicker entry later on) makes Gyminees diet tracker the winner.
Community

I would have to say Traneo has a better community. The numbers don’t lie:

  • Gyminee: 576 topics, 2,599 posts, 430 voices
  • Traineo: Total Number of Signed Up Users » 91550 Total Number of Topics » 6337 Total Number of Replies » 68430
Features

Gyminee just seems to be more in line with providing features. They have more visualizations, better social connectivity, video examples of workouts, and mobility integration. Not to mention the ability to upgrade to a pro account that goes above just pure tracking, and adds total fitness and diet planning and professional workout plans.

Part 4: Final Thoughts

Both sites are great.  Traineo is extremely easy to use and takes very little time to record my data, so much so that it was part of my nightly shutdown routine within a week.  Gyminee got my geek blood pumping with the sweet design and bundle of cool features.  While it took longer to get my workouts and favorite foods set up, the pre-planned workout routines and accurate calorie tracking got me motivated to work out and eat right.

I really like both of these sites and I could recommend either of them.  But, since I hate sites that give comparisons, but no suggestions, I will tell you which one I am choosing to stick with…

Part 5: George’s Pick

I couldn’t resist all of those features. And with the continuous release of new features, Gyminee seems to be top-notch and only getting better.  You can follow my progress on my Gyminee public profile

As always though, in the world of technology, today’s results are most likely outdated by tonight. So please comment to tell us about your favorite tracking program or let me know if you feel that I missed an important topic. Also just let us know if you like the style of the product comparison. Given some good feedback, we would like to continue these face-offs as a regular topic and make them better and more suited to what you want to know.