Fasting During Busy Times

My Experience Fasting During Busy Times at Work

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Fasting During Move-In

Recently, I continued my on-going self experiment with fasting by trying some multi-day and intermittent fasting during my busiest time at work, Move-In! Move-In for Residential Life at a College or University means long hours, and often times physical work, and time on your feet. It is a very rewarding experience when executed correctly, since a great experience is delivered to students and families as they move-in to their home away from home for the year. Most likely, your job or occupation has a season similar to move-in.

Why Fasting?

The main reason I decided to give longer fasting a try during move-in was convenience, and energy management. Longer hours during move-in can create many challenges, one of them being less time for basic necessities such as meal planning and prep. One meal a day (or longer) fasts eliminate the need for prepping and packing meals for your extended work deal.

Preparing for the Fast

The busiest time of move-in was between a Wednesday and Sunday, so the fasting was lined up within this date range. I made sure that I had plenty of wholesome food options for dinner at home, that required little prep time to create a meal. Other preparation steps I took were related to hydration. I made sure that I had packets of an electrolyte drink for work, which contains some stevia but no sugar. The electrolyte drinks were to help me stay hydrated and assure proper sodium intake, given I would not be eating during the day. *If you are striving for a water only fast, you’d need to hold the stevia.

Drink Options During Fast

Beverages I allowed myself during fasting windows included:

  • Water
  • Green Tea
  • Electrolyte Drinks
  • Black Coffee

Food Options During Eating Windows

My meals during times I was eating for move-in mostly consisted of the following groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit (Avocado mostly)
  • Meat
  • Dairy

I did my best to significantly limit any grains or processed foods during the eating time frames.

Fasting and Eating Windows

Here is the day by day breakdown of fasting vs eating, Wednesday-Sunday during move in. The work day range in this time frame was 11-13 hours.

Wednesday: 22 hour fast, meal around 6 pm

Thursday: No meals, 24 hour fast, continued in to Friday

Friday: Meal around 7:30 pm, around 48 hours total fast

Saturday: 22 hour fast, meal around 6 pm

Sunday: 22 hour fast, meal around 6 pm

The Experience

I found that the days I had one meal per day, I had a very easy time managing my energy even with long hours at work. Since I was constantly busy, I did not experience any hunger at work, and did my best to stay hydrated. Additionally, I did not experience any feelings of hunger going to bed with no meal on Thursday. It was a particularly long, hot work day with physical work, and I was more focused on hydration and my work than feeling I needed a meal.

I did break my 48 hour fast on Friday, after another long, hot day of working outside. At that time, my body was telling me it was time for a meal. I think the combination of energy expenditure, potential for stress at work, and less sleep made continuing the fast beyond 48 hours less sustainable at that time. However, I was very impressed that I was able to maintain my energy levels with a multi-day fast, despite all the factors mentioned above.

Top Fasting Tips

Please note, what I have been doing is not a zero to hero guide to fasting. I have been doing my own experiments with intermittent fasting for over a year at this point, and I would not have been successful if I started by doing a multi-day fast during move in. If you want to start at the beginning, do some research on fasting protocols, and maybe try this:

  1. Stop eating at 6 pm, have only water after 6 pm.
  2. Do not eat a meal until 6 am the next morning, have only water or black coffee if you are up early.
  3. You have just fasted 12 hours!

This may seem basic, but late night snacks, and caloric beverages at night will break your intermittent fasting. What has worked for me is to try the approach above, and continue to push out the time of day to eat my first meal, while staying hydrated. Hydration (with water), and sometimes supplementing salt can be very important to success in this area. For more information about fasting, google search Dr. Jason Fung.

Be mindful of your overall stress load during times you are fasting. Fasting by nature is a hermetic stressor, and combining fasting with other stressors (work stress, lack of sleep, physical work/exercise, emotional stress) may diminish the potential benefits of your fast.

Assuring hydration and proper sodium intake has also been very helpful for me on my fasting journey. If you are fasting, you need to find ways to get sodium into liquids, such as what I did with the electrolyte drinks this week. Lack of proper hydration and sodium intake can actually create hunger signals within your body, which can make fasting a real drag.

When you are fasting, make sure you are eating wholesome, nutrient dense food during windows of time when you eat. Just by the nature of eating less often, you will be consuming less food when you are intermittent fasting. When you do consume food and break your fast, you want to avoid foods containing:

  1. Refined Sugar
  2. Refined/Processed Grain
  3. Processed Seed Oils (vegetable oil etc.)

Eliminating foods with the above ingredients will leave you with nutrient dense options such as meats, vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains. Breaking your fast with chips, pizza, and beer is very likely to diminish any potential benefits, and leave you feeling even worse. Foods with ingredients above in addition to being less nutrient dense, tend to be less satiating (satiety is the feeling of being full).

In Closing

Based on my experience, I plan to use fasting as a tool during busy times more often. I am very interested in a longer multi-day fast, but probably would not do so during my busiest time of the year based on the stress factor mentioned above. I hope this helps, happy fasting everyone!

Summer Reset-Part 2

Wrapping up a 2 week Pre-Summer Health and Fitness Reset!

Program Summary

This post is a summary of a 2 week experiment I am trying to help reset my health and fitness habits and routine before summer. Features of the program include daily exercise, a vegetarian keto eating plan, and intermittent fasting. For more details on my plan and also a list of foods I will be avoiding, please take a look at my previous blog post for the introduction and week 1 summary.

Video Summary

Here is a quick video to summarize this program, with special emphasis on how my multi day fast went.

Top Tips

I have some great tips to offer based on my experience with this plan! Take a look below:

  1. If you are watching what you eat in any way shape or form, make a plan before you go out to eat. It is possible to find something for any dietary needs or choices, but you do need to make a plan in advance. Look at the menu of the restaurant you would like to go to, and also the nutrition facts if they are available. Do not be afraid to ask questions or make special requests when you order.
  2. Choose real food. By eliminating 3 highly processed ingredients as part of my plan (sugar, processed oil, grain), I was left with more wholesome, real, unprocessed food options.
  3. Exercise Outside! Doing some of your exercise outside, especially during summer just makes you feel better, it’s fun, plus you get some natural vitamin D production!

Week 2 Meals and Fasting

June 8

Morning: Black Coffee, water

Around 8 am: Bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter and coconut oil)

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: Coleslaw made with veggie slaw mix, avocado mayo, sriracha sauce, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar. Olives and sliced cheddar, mixed nuts.

Fasting Window: 14 hours. Bulletproof coffee breaks a fast.

June 9

Morning: Black Coffee, water

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: 2 fried eggs topped with cheddar cheese, coleslaw with sliced avocado on top. Mixed nut butter with coconut flakes and hemp hearts.

Fasting Window: 23 hours

June 10

Morning: Black Coffee, water

Around 9 am: Bulletproof coffee

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 2 pm: Coleslaw with sliced avocado, 2 fried eggs with cheddar cheese and diced tomatoes. Mixed nut butter with coconut flakes and hemp hearts.

Fasting Window: 15 hours. Bulletproof coffee breaks a fast.

June 11

Morning: Black Coffee, water

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: 2 egg omelet with cheddar cheese, with sliced avocado and diced tomatoes on top. Mixed nut butter with coconut flakes and hemp hearts.

Fasting Window: 28 hours

June 12

Morning: Black Coffee, water

Around 12 noon: Chicken kabobs, steak, cheese, Coleslaw.

Around 6 pm: Chicken kabobs, marinated olive and cheese.

*did have meat, and 2 scotches today, so a little out of compliance for my plan.

Fasting window: 19 hours

June 13

Morning: Black Coffee, water

During the day: Water, iced coffee, “fasting margarita” (fresh lime juice, salt, water, ice).

Around 5:30 pm: Quick broth made with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, chili powder, water.

Fasting window: All day.

June 14

Morning: Black Coffee, water.

During the day: Water, green tea, ice coffee, fasting margaritas.

Around 5:30 pm: Quick broth made with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, chili powder, water.

Final Fasting window: 60 hours. Bulletproof Coffee Tuesday morning June 15.

Week 2 Exercise

June 8

Total Gym Row- 12,13,14

Ab Wheel Roll Out- 10,10,10

Reverse Crunch- 10,10,10

Pull Up- 5,7,7

Kettlebell Swing- 53 lb 14,15,15

Stretching and foam roll.

June 9

4.9 mile run, no stops, 48:00 minutes.

*note about my run loop, the distance is what my phone tells me. When I time, I know the distance is the same, even if my phone is not correct on the exact number.

Stretching and foam roll.

June 10

Deadlift- 135x 5, 155x 5, 205x 5, 225 x 3,3

Pushup- 14, 12, 13

Hang leg raise- 10,10,10

Dip- 5, 6, 7, 8

June 11

4.9 mile run, no stops, 48:06 minutes.

Stretching and foam roll.

June 12

Stretching, foam roll, active rest.

June 13

Morning run, around 3.5 miles.

Yard work, about an hour.

June 14

Morning walk, 50 minutes, about 2.5 miles. Stretching and foam roll.

I chose a walk for today to try and give myself the best chance to keep my fast going. For me, weight lifting tends to make me hungry soon after.

Program Before and After

Before (Photo)

After (Photo)

Weight Before: 207.2 pounds

*Weight before was taken immediately after a weekend away with lots of treats and little exercise. This being the case, the number is slightly higher than typical for me, baseline is more like 200 pounds.

Weight After: 196.0

*I did take a weight at the mid-point of my plan, as well as the end, mid-point was 200. I add this to point out that the majority of weight lost was before the multi-day fast, and likely due to cutting out the junk after a weekend away. A multi-day fast will likely result in some weight lost, but there are many other potential health benefits associated.

This is purely my opinion, but if weight loss is a primary goal, starting by keeping food journals is a more sustainable approach than jumping in to a multi-day fast. Someone accustomed to eating 3-5 (or more) times per day and/or consuming processed food will not have built the metabolic flexibility to be successful or have a pleasant/sustainable intermittent or multi-day fasting experience. Once again, check out Dr. Jason Fung for more information and science behind all things fasting.

Waist Circumference Before: 4th belt loop. This is my own measure, no tape needed. 3rd belt loop is not good, 4th belt loop is ok, 5th is better.

Waist Circumference After: 5th belt loop.

Program Compliance Grade

I’ll give myself a solid 90% grade for this 2 week program. Given I can count the days I slipped up on 2 fingers, I’d say I did very well. The multi day fast was a significant achievement, and a great learning experience.

What is Next??

Well, first I plan to enjoy family vacation! I am going to make myself a plan to include some intermittent fasting, body weight exercise, running, and stretching as part of the week. Of course, I will be having some treats, but I do feel coming off this plan will keep moderation.

I will be looking for inspiration for future experiments which I can turn into blog posts or series and share with you. Until next time!

A Two Week Summer Reset

My Plan for a Quick Pre-Summer Health tune up

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Why a Pre-Summer tune up?

I am choosing to identify a block of time to lock in some healthy habits and patterns related to nutrition and exercise. Periodically, it can be beneficial to identify some time to do this, especially if you find that the business of life is starting to dictate some of your choices related to your health and fitness routine, rather than you choosing your own priorities. Why 2 weeks? For me, I have 2 weeks before our family vacation, and a want a little bit more flexibility to have some treats on the vacation, while still getting benefits of this plan. For me, 2 weeks is a manageable amount of time set some positive patterns.

Additionally, I have been noticing that my nutrition is not as dialed in as I would like it to be. Reaching for some snacks, maybe a weekday drink or two…we’ve all been there, right? There are a lot of excuses or potential reasons why I have seen some slippage in this area, for me I’d say mostly work has been very stressful. At the end of the day, I am responsible for my health and wellbeing regardless of any circumstances or excuses (valid or not), that I may have. I see this is a great opportunity to get my routines back on track before the summer.

What is the plan?

Based on some of my previous experiments with different nutrition plans, I am going to try to weeks of a vegetarian keto diet plan, with intermittent fasting. Vegetarian can still include eggs and full fat dairy, and I am interested in the challenge of not eating meat for a small window of time. The way I have done keto is moderate protein, so not eating meat might make this macro-nutrient number a little bit easier to reach. For those not familiar, keto diet plans mean very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. Please see my previous blog post if you want to see how this plan went for me previously.

Will I be counting calories or macros? I will not. I am going to draw from my previous experience and “eye ball” portions, and macros. My main focus is going to be elimination of certain food groups during this 2 week period. Counting marco-nutrients and measuring portions can have its place, it is just not going to be part of my current plan. When eating real food and cutting grain and sugar, I’ve found portions to be more intuitive.

Dates will be June 1- June 15. At the time of posting, I have already completed one week.

For my fasting protocol, most days will include a 16-18 hour fasting window, some more, some less. Additionally, since I have been working on fasting for a while and have some experience, I want to include one 48 hour fasting period in my two week plan. Fasting is allowing for only black coffee, unsweet tea, water, and salt, nothing with significant calories (black coffee has a few calories, but does not break a fast). Please note, what I plan on doing is not a zero to hero guide to intermittent fasting. If you want to start at the beginning, do some research, and maybe try this:

  1. Stop eating at 6 pm, have only water after 6 pm.
  2. Do not eat a meal until 6 am the next morning, have only water or black coffee if you are up early.
  3. You have just fasted 12 hours!

This may seem basic, but late night snacks, and caloric beverages at night will torpedo your intermittent fasting. What has worked for me is to try the approach above, and continue to push out the time of day to eat my first meal. Hydration (with water) and sometimes supplementing salt can be very important to success in this area. For more information about fasting, google search Dr. Jason Fung.

What is not allowed?

Aside from what I will be including in my plan (keto and intermittent fasting), I am going to give myself a strict list of food and drinks that are not allowed as part of my reset, to help break up any patterns I want to change.

Not allowed:

  1. Meat (hence vegetarian)
  2. Processed seed oils (vegetable oil)
  3. Processed or added sugar
  4. Grain
  5. Artificial sweeteners
  6. Alcohol

I find that creating categories of food or ingredients that are not allowed makes guidelines easier to follow. For example, grains and processed oils eliminate thousands of different junk snack foods. Rather than bullet listing all the different junk food I am not allowing, I can read the ingredients list to see if any of my food categories on the naughty list are contained. For more information on decoding food labels and finding problematic ingredients, please take a look at my previous post on the topic.

Exercise Plan

My plan for exercise is going to have some flexibility, but also some routine that I will hold myself to during this 2 week program. Here are some guidelines I will set for myself, while following training logs:

  1. Weight training, at least twice per week.
  2. Run/jog, twice per week.
  3. Planned exercise, 5 times per week.
  4. Days with no planed exercise, move or stretch.
  5. Exercise outside, at least twice per week.
  6. Daily stretching and/or foam roll.

Program Goals

Given that this is a very short program, I do not have any weight loss or fitness goals. My goals for the program are as follows:

1. As close to 100% compliance as possible to food guidelines.

2. Exercise or move daily.

This is a program about discipline every bit as much as it is health and fitness for me.

Stats to track

I will track certain markers to see any notable changes or progress during my two week plan. Here are before stats:

Photo

Waist circumference

4th belt loop (my own measurement, 3rd not good 4th ok, 5 ideal).

Weight

207.2 pounds, taken post morning walk. Also of note, at the time of the photo I was just coming off weekend away with lots of indulgence and little exercise.

Best Run

4.9 miles, 51 minutes total.

Week 1

Summary [Video]

Here is a video summary of the program outline, and how week 1 went for me.

Week 1 Summary

Tip of the week

If you are going out to eat, make a plan. Look at the menu in advance and see what meets your personal dietary guidelines. Some restaurants have nutrition facts available online as well. My only deviation from my dietary guidelines was because I didn’t make a plan before going out to eat.

Meal Logs and Fasting

June 1

Morning: Black Coffee, water

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: 4 fried eggs topped with cheddar cheese, avocado 🥑 and diced tomatoes. Roasted seaweed. Macadamia nuts.

Fasting Window: 23 hours

June 2

Morning: Black Coffee, water

Around 8 am: Bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter and coconut oil)

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: 4 scrambled eggs with cheese, diced tomatoes. Avocado with sliced olives. Seaweed snack. Coconut flakes.

Fasting Window: 14 hours. Bulletproof coffee breaks a fast.

June 3

Morning: Black Coffee, water

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: 4 fried eggs topped with cheddar cheese, avocado 🥑 and diced tomatoes. Roasted seaweed. Macadamia nuts.

Fasting Window: 23 hours

June 4

Morning: Black Coffee, water

Around 8 am: Bulletproof coffee

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: Keto bowl with mixed nut butter, coconut oil, coconut flakes, hemp hearts, and salt. Macadamia nuts. Diced avocado. Roasted seaweed.

Fasting Window: 14 hours. Bulletproof coffee breaks a fast.

June 5

Morning: Coffee, green tea, water 💧

Around 12 noon: Bowl of tomato soup, wedge salad with blue cheese while dining out.

Note: I had a bit of a keto fail with the soup, because I definitely tasted sugar in it. Next time, I’ll ask, or look up nutrition facts online if available. Also, the salad came with bacon, so not vegetarian today.

Around 4 pm: Coconut flakes. Olives, pickle, cheddar cheese 🧀

Fasting window: 18 hours

June 6

Morning: Coffee, water.

Mid morning: Lots of water, ice coffee, seltzer.

Around 1 pm: Guacamole made with avocado, garlic, dice tomato, jalapeños, salt and pepper. Cheddar cheese, Olives, pickles. Macadamia nuts.

Around 5:00 pm: Sliced mozzarella cheese with tomato 🍅, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Fasting window: 20 hours

June 7

Morning: Black Coffee, water

At work: Water, green tea (1)

Around 5 pm: Sliced mozzarella with tomato, avocado, and olives. Roasted seaweed. Mixed nuts.

Fasting Window: 23 hours

Training Log

June 1

Morning: Foam roll, 50 minutes of walking, around 2.5 miles.

June 2

Pull up 5,7,8

Total Gym row 10, 12, 12

Lots of stretching and foam roll due to sore right hip flexor.

June 3

Morning: Foam roll, 50 minutes of walking, around 2.5 miles.

*Did not run due to tight hip flexor.

June 4

Push up- 13,14,13

Deadlift- 135×5, 155×5, 205×5

Dip- 6, 9, 7

Stretching and foam roll

June 5

30 minutes weed whacking outdoors, stretching.

June 6

Morning: Run, unknown distance, a little over 1 hour.

Mid morning: Mow lawn, around 1 hour. Stretching and foam roll.

June 7

Morning: Foam roll, 50 minutes of walking, around 2.5 miles.

Compliance Grade for Week 1

I’m going to give myself a solid 95% compliance to my plan, my only slip up being going out to eat with no plan on Saturday June 5. Other than that, all meals met my guidelines. Additionally, my fasting was on point, and I had variation to the fasting window over the week. I was able to exercise or move daily, and meet all exercise guidelines I set. This is very encouraging, I’m excited for one more week!

Looking Ahead to Week 2!

One more week to dial in before it is family vacation! I do want to stay motivated to finish my program strong, and also make myself a plan for vacation so I can keep some of the nutrition and exercise momentum strong on our get away. I want to come back from vacation feeling more relaxed and generally better than when I left, so I will need to make a plan to not overdo the treats, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep and rest.

Additionally, I will make a plan for my 48 hour fast during week 2. Initially, I am thinking about targeting the weekend, and complete my extended fast towards the end of the program. Cheers, see you next week!

Bullet Proof Coffee- A Recipe

How to Make Coffee to Super Charge Your Day, Hold the Sugar

What is Bullet Proof Coffee?

It is important to note that Bulletproof Coffee is a brand, which manufactures and distributes coffee and other health focused products. This company/brand came up with the concept for the drink “Bulletproof Coffee”. Bulletproof Coffee (the drink) is a high fat, sugar free coffee drink which has become popular in some health and fitness circles for its potential benefits. The basic formula to make this drink yourself is to combine brewed coffee with grass fed butter, and medium chain triglyceride (MTC) oil.

Start with the Coffee

Any good Bulletproof coffee starts with, you guessed it, good coffee. I will be framing out this recipe the way I make it, but any coffee or brewing method can be used.

  1. Grind your coffee beans. Grind yourself some whole coffee beans, either for a brewing pot or individual cup. Fresh ground coffee always tastes better, in my opinion.
  2. Use clean water. The quality of your coffee beans and water will contribute to the quality and taste of your coffee. Some type of filtration for your water is necessary, do not just use tap water to make your coffee.
  3. Prepare your grass fed butter and MCT oil. An easy and affordable source of MCT oil is Coconut oil. When purchasing Coconut oil, look for virgin, unrefined coconut oil. Refined coconut oils may have their structure altered due to heat used in processing, and you will find they do not have the same smell and taste of coconut. I use one tablespoon of each for 1 standard cup of coffee, placed in the cup so the drip coffee melts both during brewing.

4. Add sea salt. I like to add sea salt (a few pinches) for flavor and electrolytes. Optional at this step, you could add spices like cinnamon for flavor.

5. Combine all ingredients. For this step, use a milk frother (a few types pictured below) or a blender. This is important to whip the drink and combine the MCT oil and melted butter into the coffee. If you do not take this step, you will end up with a butter oil slick on top of your coffee, which is not very appetizing. I usually spend about a minute on this step.

Compare to other Coffee Drinks

Nutrition facts for the drink you just made are (approximately):

  • 230 calories
  • 0 grams protein
  • 0 grams sugar
  • 25 grams fat

Compare to nutrition facts of a coffee drink you may order from a chain:

  • 410 calories
  • 12 grams protein
  • 49 grams sugar
  • 13 grams fat

(The above sample is for a small)

Why Bulletproof Coffee?

Drinking a bulletproof coffee may provide you more sustained energy, and help you feel satiated (full) throughout the morning. This is due to the combination of good quality fats with coffee, and no sugar. The standard cappuccino drink or coffee with cream and sugar is going to trigger an increase in blood sugar and an insulin response, which will actually make you hungry in a few hours.

If you are going to try bulletproof coffee, based on my experience I recommend trying it as a stand alone drink. So, substitute this drink for your usual morning coffee, and don’t eat breakfast for a few hours. If you combine a bulletproof coffee with a meal containing carbohydrates, you will likely get a similar result to the sugar coffee drink.

Can I add Artificial Sweetener?

This is your discretion, there are pros and cons to adding artificial sweeteners. Personally, I prefer to make this a savory drink rather than a sweet one, but everyone’s taste preferences are different. The pro to artificial sweetener is it makes the drink more palatable for some. Potential cons include putting an artificial ingredient into your body, and also that artificial sweeteners can trigger an insulin response in your body.

Give it a try!

I hope this guide and recipe for Bulletproof coffee is helpful, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Have a Happy (Healthy) New Year!

Your One Stop Shop to Make a Healthy New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

New Year, New You?

Happy New Year! How is 2021 going for you so far, did you make a New Year’s resolution? If you did, this post will help give you some ideas to tune up and strengthen your resolution. If you have not made a resolution, it is not too late…make a January 9 resolution! There is nothing magical about the date of January 1 to commit to self improvement, the only truly important factor is your commitment and follow through.

Getting Started on the Path Towards a Healthier You

Given the theme of my blog, I assume you are reading this post for ideas on Health or Fitness related resolutions. The framework I am going to outline can be applied to other goals as well, but the examples will be related to Health and Wellness. Last year, I wrote a fairly extensive blog post about goal setting, please take a look if you would like some additional information about the general topic of goals.

First, start with where you are. Take inventory of your daily and weekly routines of nutrition, exercise, stress, and sleep. A great way to accomplish this is a daily journal, to help you log specifics within each category. It is important to be as detailed and specific as possible when journaling, as this will help inform your goals. Also, be honest with yourself, you cannot make goals to improve if you are not being real about your starting point. Here is an example of what I daily journal can look like, to help give you an idea to get started:

Monday

Exercise: 2,000 steps during the day.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee with cream and sugar.

Around 9 am: McDonald’s Bacon Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bagel, Hashbrowns, Coffee with cream and sugar.

Around 12 noon: BLT Sandwich with Mayo, 1 granola bar.

Around 3 pm: 1 Diet Coke, 1 Nutra-grain Bar.

Around 6 pm: Baked chicken breast with honey mustard glaze, side of rice, side salad.

Around 7:30 pm: Snack (bag of Doritos), 12 oz Beer.

Sleep: To bed around 11:30 pm (did not fall asleep right away), woke up at 6 am for work.

Stress: I was stressed out by my commute to and from work, my meetings at work, and dinner preparation.

Keep daily journal entries for a week before you think about making any changes, and be honest and accurate with yourself. Once you have a week of “baseline data”, you can then start to look at goals, and how you will work towards them.

If you are looking to make a change to your diet and your journal looks something like above, do not worry about counting calories or macro-nutrients if this is not something you have done before. Rather, take note of the food choices, and estimated portion sizes to give you an idea of your starting point.

If you have weight loss or nutritional goals, start with the obvious answer before taking measures such as counting calories and macro-nutrients. Can you identify the low hanging fruit/obvious improvements to the food journal above? Here are a few that will result in improvements if practiced consistently:

  1. Ditch the cream and sugar in coffee. Drink black coffee, or substitute black or green tea.
  2. Ditch McDonalds, and make your own breakfast. Even with similar food choices at breakfast, you can control the ingredients and limit processed/fried food.
  3. Ditch the soda, substitute water, seltzer, herbal tea.
  4. Ditch the late night snack and drink, you don’t need to eat so soon after dinner, you could move the beer to Saturday as a treat if you like beer. Substitute a cup of herbal tea or other calorie free beverage.

Are there other areas for improvement in the food journals above? Sure there are, and I bet you found a few. The basic concept I wanted to demonstrate is that we all know the parts of our routine that provide little to no nutritional value and do not enhance our health, it is truly not rocket science.

What are your Goals?

Realistically, you probably had an idea about your goals before you did a daily journal to see your baseline. Here are a few examples of common goal categories related to Health and Fitness:

  1. Desire to lose weight or some other physical/appearance related goal.
  2. Desire to change something in our diet (stop drinking soda, for example).
  3. Desire to improve our physical fitness (increase steps per day, get stronger, start running as examples).

If you have not had a chance to think about specific goals, take some time and do this before you start making changes to what you find in your daily journals. If you do not know your goals and outcomes, you can’t really be intentional when making changes to what you are currently doing.

Find Your Theme

In addition to goals, I recommend creating a guiding theme for you to follow and reference during 2021. I had a guiding theme in 2020, and saw some of the best sustained results I have ever experienced. A guiding theme is not a specific goal you can achieve, but rather a phrase that inspires you and keeps you moving towards your goals. For more information on guiding themes, check out the Goal Setting Post I referenced above.

Analyzing your Personal Data from Journals

Now that you have goals, and (hopefully) a guiding theme, take a look and see if what you found in your daily journals is serving you in achieving these results. I will use the sample daily journal above for this example:

Sample Goal: I want to add weight training in to my daily routine, 3 days per week, for 30 minutes. For the example above, assume there is no weight/resistance training at all.

Challenges: I am very inexperienced with weight training, I do not have a Gym membership, I am uncertain about Gyms due to the state of COVID in 2021, I don’t have time during the week.

Solutions:

  1. First, find the time! Based on the daily journals above, this person could find time in the morning, or the evening to do 30 minutes of exercise. For the morning, they would need to go to sleep earlier, so they can wake up earlier to exercise. If they are not a morning person, they could exercise in the evening. Personally, I have a hard time winding down to go to sleep if I work out in the evening, so I choose the morning.
  2. Go on Google or You Tube and find some basic, body weight exercises, you don’t need a Gym to train! The internet is a wonderful tool, and this person will find that you don’t need a Gym (or equipment) to get an excellent workout routine using body weight exercises. In your home with no equipment, you can do push ups, modified pushups, sit ups, crunches, lunges, squats, chair squats, etc, etc. You can even find some free workout videos to follow along with, even better!
  3. Pick very basic exercises, and spend time learning the technique of them before following along with a workout video. You can teach yourself enough of the basics to get moving and get some results.
  4. Considering hiring an online personal trainer or coach. As mentioned above, you can learn enough of the basics to get moving and get some results. However, if someone is inexperienced, it is always advisable to seek professional help to make sure your movements are safe and functional. For example, someone might be powering through push ups and see great results, but if their technique is even slightly off, they may end up with sore elbows and have no idea why.
  5. Once you meet your goal, stop and reassess. It is a big deal to build a routine of consistency when it comes to exercise, but once you accomplish any goal you need to think about what is next. This is where a guiding theme will motivate you for constant improvement.
  6. Keep journaling. Write down your own ideas for goals, challenges, and solutions as you make improvements.

Example Next Level Goals: Using the example above, once you accomplish your goal of weight training three times per week, here are some possible next steps.

  1. Hire a trainer or coach to help me learn better technique, new exercises, and develop a plan.
  2. Find variations of the exercises I have learned to make them more challenging.
  3. Add time to my workouts, perhaps increase to 40 minutes per day 3 times per week.
  4. Add cardio exercise or steps to the days of the week I am not weight training.
  5. Make a change to my diet which will help increase my energy levels and results, such as cutting out added sugar/artificial sweeteners gradually, starting with soda.

Tip: Regardless of your goals, I highly increasing the quality of your sleep. Sleep by nature is restorative, and will enhance any area of your health and wellbeing you have as a goal. I plan to write a more comprehensive post about sleep in the future, but for now just try and make sure you are getting 7-8 good hours of sleep per night.

Also, continue to journal as you make progress and set new goals. The daily journals will help you keep track of what is working for you, and perhaps what may not be working. Journals can also be a source of motivation, they help you see progress along your journey.

Make It Happen!

Remember, there is nothing magical about January 1, you can make meaningful change any time of the year. Make 2021 your year, it starts now!

Photo by Allan Mas on Pexels.com