It’s an arbitrary milestone for me. Labour Day has significance for others in terms of celebrating workers, back-to-school, end of summer or whatever, but for me it is a convenient transition point. Maybe it’s even an optional transition point that I use when I sense that I need to make a change. This time I’m using it for some physical changes.
I need to drop some weight, reduce blood pressure and get generally healthier. the issues that surround being overweight are obvious; we hear about them every day. Although my brain has been working hard to justify my bad habits, I now have to take action to change my own internal programming to adjust those habits as they are cutting years off of my life. So, starting tomorrow (No, not today. Shut up…I know what you’re thinking!) I’ll be adjusting my eating habits. I’m just going for multiple meals, smaller portions, more colourful veggies and less meat – especially red meat. I’ll make a few changes in cooking techiques – more raw and less frying. And I’m tracking my meals using MyFitnessPal.com with its iPhone app.
An exercise program is critical but it’s going to be a little complicated for the moment. My default exercise is walking but I have a knee injury that hasn’t quite been diagnosed yet, so walking is not an option at this point. I just had an MRI yesterday, so I should be hearing soon about the specifics of the injury and the treatment. That will help clarify what exercise program is going to work for me. For the moment I am going to do what I can to exercise without involving my knee. Luckily, the internet comes through again! I searched for “exercise with an injured knee” and there are lots of options. So, it looks like I’ll be spending some time in the gym and using those dumb bells and kettle bells that I have at home.
I don’t drink alcohol a lot, so I don’t need to make any significant changes there. I will take a two week period of no drinking at all and then I’ll relax and allow a couple of adult beverages on the weekends.
I’m not going to go crazy with health-kick changes, because I’ve done that before and it doesn’t work. The human brain doesn’t like big changes and it will work against you to maintain its less than healthy habits. So, I’m going to make little changes to eat better, exercise better and get better. The key is small changes. Multiple small changes over time will result in continuous improvement which leads to major change. If you keep improving – even just a little bit – you will eventually make huge changes. You just have to make the changes small enough and palatable enough so that your brain doesn’t notice them. If the change is too big, it will fight you. If you normally eat 2300 calories a day and you suddenly drop to 1500 calories your system (your brain) will be very unhappy and you will crave calories, and the likelihood of maintaining this change will be minimal. Try reducing your calories to 2200 per day. Not much of a difference, right? Your brain probably won’t even notice, but you will start to lose weight slowly – 100 calories a day = 10 pounds per year. This may be too slow for most people, but if you make this change and then let your brain get used to it you can make the same change again in a few weeks, and again your brain won’t notice it. Now you’ve cropped 200 calories/day from your meals = 20 pounds per year. If you want to lose a pound a week you have to re-balance your intake by 500 calories per day. I say re-balance because you have options when it comes to calorie consumption. You can either not consume them by not eating them, or you can burn them with exercise. For example: A 180 pound man can consume 150-200 calories by simply walking for 30 minutes…A bran muffin is 270 calories…so a 180 pound man can re-balance 470 calories by walking 30 minutes and avoiding the equivalent of one bran muffin or one ham sandwich each day.
For those of you who haven’t done it, try tracking your intake and exercise outputs. I’m willing to bet that if you simply track food and exercise, you will unconsciously make changes because you will become conscious of some little bad habits. You will become conscious of the net effect of that bowl of ice cream (1 cup = 260 cals), or bag of chips (28 gram bag = 160 cals) or even that bran muffin (270 cals) that we ate just because it was there. Just for fun, take one thing that you ate today, find out it’s calorie content and multiply it by 365 then divide it by 3500 to find it’s net impact if you eat that every day for a year. For example, if you eat a bran muffin every day and you stop doing that without adding or subtracting anything else, you will re-balance your intake by 98,000 calories and lose over 25 pounds.
There are a bunch of lifestyle trackers out there, but I use MyFitnessPal.com and it works for me.
Anyway, it’s time to get a little healthier by making some changes. Wish me luck!