I was a chubby kid. No question about it – I was always last on the pick list for team sports. In my twenty’s I took up running, cycling, triathlons, and Ironman competitions.
I burned lots of calories, lost weight, but still had that winter/summer waist belt yo-yo going on. I would lean out in the summer and add pounds in the winter. It was frustrating. Plus, I wanted to learn more about diet, health, and how to create a steady, healthy diet and lifestyle.
Finally it dawned me…I needed to change my mind.
ON SHAKY GROUND
Every year, an Everest-sized pile of books, articles, retreats, conferences, pills, and resources are created to help people lose weight. Throwing my two bits into a crowded fountain of hope puts me on shaky ground. That’s okay – it hasn’t stopped me before!
** You might be asking “Hugh, why the heck are you writing about losing weight in a business blog?” Good question (and if you didn’t ask it, you should have). My goal is to help you, dear reader, be better at the game of life. Some of that involves the hours your invest in our work. And some is about your precious non-work hours. Either way, I believe if you think differently, plan better, and act deliberately you will always get remarkable results.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK
Your brain is wired to take the path of least resistance following neural pathways carved by past thoughts and actions. Just like water running down a new track off the main stream and digging a deeper trench, the more we think a thought, the more it becomes our default thought.
The problem is, if you think you are incapable of changing yourself, any ray of hope gets quickly squashed. So, bad thinking (“I always make goals, and then break them”) begets more bad thinking (“Well, there I go again! Another goal broken.”).
The good news is the reverse is also true: good thinking (“I wanted a cookie, but walked away. Good on me!”) begets more good thinking (“This is progress. Tomorrow I’d do the same thing”).
ACTION: Watch your thoughts. Catch any negative conclusions pointed at yourself and turn that finger to point at curiosity, like this.
When you catch yourself saying: “Why do I always say I’m going to do something, and then procrastinate?”
Turn it into: “I wonder what payoff (reward) I got by procrastinating?” and then “How can I feel rewarded (what reward do I need) by doing what I committed to?”
The faster you flip your self-condemnation into curiosity, the faster you can start to explore new and better actions for next time. At the end of an exhausting three day speaking tour, and on the final flight home, I found myself devouring two cookies I had stashed in my carry-on earlier in the day. No sooner had I nibbled the last crumb, I was already regretting my decision.
Rather than beating myself up, I got curious. “What just happened there?” I asked myself. “Oh yeah, I’ve been going hard since 5:00AM, I’m exhausted, and my defences had tanked.” Now for the curiosity.
“I know this is going to happen again (damn those hotel cookies!) – I wonder how to avoid the binge next time?”
It’s easy to be tempted into an unhealthy diet – just load your shelves with junk. If you are serious about losing weight, feeling better, or simply having more energy, removing temptation is the first step.
In addition to avoiding the 24 pack of diet Pepsi in the grocery story, you can use smaller plates. In one four-month study, people assigned smaller plates lost three more pounds, compared to those assigned larger plates (read more here). In another study, people given large bowls served up 31% more ice cream than those given small bowls. Even using a larger spoon, resulted in 57% larger servings than those with small spoons.
And here’s the kicker – our brain is a terrible judge of past behaviour. In the bowl experiment, both the people with papa-size bowls and those with baby-size bowls estimated they had served up about the same amount of calories.
“If you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery.” AA
1) Donate food you know you shouldn’t be eating to charity.
2) Limit bing eating to one day/week.
3) Start using smaller plates and even smaller cutlery.
TWIDDLE YOUR THUMBS FOR 20 MINUTES
I learned a little lesson that has served me well at buffet lines, from Dan Beuttner’s book The Blue Zones. Here it is: it takes about 20 minutes for our stomach to signal our brain we’ve eaten enough.
Now, imagine you are at a conference. You’ve been sitting on your duff all day, bored silly by PowerPoint. Now, it’s lunch time, your willpower is at half-mast, your brain is calling for blood glucose, and you’ve loaded up at the buffet.
Before your stomach has a chance to raise warning flags, you’re already back in line for a second helping. Bad news is on its way (in about 20 minutes).
ACTION: Create a habit of pausing before you refill. Chat about the latest Duck Dynasty episode and drink water. Chances are pretty good that second helping won’t be looking as attractive. And you’ll thank me in the morning.
GO ON A HUNT
We are modern people, living in primitive bodies. One part of your wiring that hasn’t change over millennia is your need to hibernate (sitting, resting, sleeping) and hunt (exercise, physical work, outdoor activity, sports). When you hunt, muscles go to work, tissue breaks down, and cells are rebuilt. I talk about this process more “Yes! You can be younger next year”.
This cycle is critical for your health, longevity, and energy. But it only happens when you hit your red line. And your red line is 60-65% of your maximum heart rate. (calculation: 220-your age=max heart rate). For me that calculation is: 220-56 = 164…164 X 65% = 107 bpm (beats per minute). For me to get the “hunting” effect of break down/rebuild I need to keep my heart rate at 107 bpm, or higher. That’s easy – it’s like a fast walk.
ACTION: Go for a brisk walk twice a day for at least 20 minutes. Do that consistently and you’re in the top 20% of fitness. Throw in some strength training, and Jillian Michaels will be giving you a call.
Willpower decreases throughout the day. This leads to bad choices later in the day.
It’s a no wonder that tub of Breyers Heavenly Hash (my favourite) looks pretty darn good come 9:00 at night. Kapesh?
The solution is no-fork boundaries.
When I’m at home, I get going at 5:00AM, but I don’t eat until 8:00. By that time I’ve been writing for two hours, and exercising for 45 minutes (read more about “Joining the Morning Club“). Add 15 minutes to make my smoothie and bowl of quinoa and it’s been three hours before I eat. That makes for a great appetite.
In the evening I stop eating by 9:00. That’s means no food is going into my system for the hour before I go to bed (I talk more about this “Make your bed and 12 more great habits for the super busy”). That makes for a great nights sleep and my body isn’t trying to process food while I’m sleeping.
ACTION: Create your own no-fork zone in the AM and PM when eating is banned. Try it for a week. And then experiment with timing until your new routine feels natural and rewarding (as opposed to a sacrifice).
ADD REWARDS AND STIR
You don’t do anything without a reward. Don’t believe me? Why did you stay late at work last week? Why did you run all those errands (in rush hour no less) for your family? Why did you procrastinate and skip that workout yesterday?
You got rewards.
Rewards make the world go around. Sometimes we confuse rewards with duty, commitment, goals, and responsibility. But behind it are rewards.
Want to lose weight? Create a new routine and reward it.
I drink a full glass of water every morning. Why? Because I know I’ll feel better around 10:00 AM.
I don’t eat gluten. Why? Because I know I won’t get sleepy in the afternoon and I don’t gain weight (I think I’ll live longer as well).
I don’t drink coffee. Why? Because years ago (it’s been 17 years) I calculated the pre-tax cost of my coffee habit and decided to invest that money instead. My daughter’s education fund has grown nicely off “coffee money” over the last 10 years.
I could go on and on, but the point is all new routines need new rewards. And your rewards have to be bigger, sexier, and better then whatever reward you got from the old routine.
ACTION: Get creative. How could you reward your new habits? It could be feeling better is enough reward. Or, maybe you need to track your progress. In one study, people who simply recorded everything they ate over a two week period, lost weight, smoked less, drank less alcohol, and slept better (even though they were asked to do any of those things). The reward was journalling. The willpower boost they enjoyed in other areas was a bonus.
In this post, I wanted to share how I work at Thinking, Planning, and Acting to enjoy great health. You maybe doing great already – wonderful! Or, you know better is possible. That’s great as well. The trick, as you might have guessed, is to take one of these actions, practice it, and reward it.
“Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” (to quote the philosopher F. Gump). And you won’t know unless you open the box, take a risk, and see what happens.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Catch those negative thoughts about past behaviour and get curious. Life is throwing lessons at us every day – we just need to catch them.
- Remove temptations. If you drive a Porsche you’ll get speeding tickets. If you buy junk food you’ll eat it. Fix that first.
- Wait 20 minutes before thinking about eating more. This one habit could add years to your life.
- Go on a “hunt” in your “red zone” for at least 20 minutes a day (twice a day is better). Your body wants to rebuild – make it happen.
- Create no-fork boundaries (morning and night) when your body can digest, recuperate, and rebuild.
- Reward your new habits and make them sticky. Small changes, over time, are the secret to long-lasting success.
Now, over to you. What are you doing to enjoy your best health ever? Tell me in the comments below – I want to know.