Prioritize Your Life and Schedule It

important-large-rotated

Before you make any huge changes to your daily routine, make sure that you’re going to be 100% happy with the way you schedule it. Otherwise you won’t stick to it. It really is that simple.

My method is to make and keep lists that help me prioritize and review what is important to me. I:

  1. list how I spend my time now.
  2. list things I want to do regularly (including the ones I’ve already have been doing that you want to keep in your schedule).  These should be the things that are the most important.
  3. make a final list of whatever I will schedule. This includes the things I must do (like go to work or groceries), as well as anything else that is important (working out, cooking, and family time). For example, I generally plan ahead and do groceries before my commitments stack up during the week so that I have time to cook and eat without feeling rushed or tempted to go out.
  4. create a realistic schedule from the third list, allowing plenty of time to get to and from work, home, school, the gym – whatever.  If I can’t stick to it, I won’t stick to it.
  5. make a schedule as often as I have to depending on how busy I am – sometimes I write out a day-to-day schedule at the beginning of the week or I make one the night before.  Maybe you will be able to or have to plan months in advance, but most people are somewhere in between.
  6. re-evaluate priorities and make a new schedule whenever I’m overwhelmed or find myself unable to stick to the plan. I did this a lot at first while figuring out how long my workouts take, how long I wanted to cook, how much sleep was ideal, etc.

My regular schedule nowadays includes working, exercising, cooking, eating, spending time with my husband and writing on a daily basis. Now that it’s winter, it is darker and cooler outside in the morning so I’m not waking up early to go on a daily walk like I did in the summer months. But I’ve started reading more books instead. I re-evaluated and changed my schedule based on my opportunity costs when I didn’t enjoy the walks as much. I’ll probably go back to walking soon though because the days are already much longer than a month ago.

Ultimately, with my scheduling list method I waste less time than before and am much happier knowing that I do what is important to me every day.

Guest Post: Holding yourself accountable

couple-workout1

In 2012 when I decided to try P90X for the first time, finding the motivation to begin was easy.  It was new to me and my lovely Agata was willing to try it out with me.  So I gave it a shot.

The first unofficial week, I worked out 2 of 7 days to get a feel for the program.  I knew it would take some serious dedication because a ton of people I knew had done it but failed completing it;  1 hour 6 days a week and following the nutrition guide to a “T” is not easy.  I decided to hold myself accountable by telling everyone on facebook what I had planned to do.

I got instant likes and comments about the program, mostly encouraging me to do it.  Sure enough, after a while, I felt like I had to continue otherwise I’d let them (and my wife and I) down.

I posted methodically.  First day; second day; first week; second week; first month; second month; finish.  Each post encouraged me to keep going, not only because I wanted to post it to tell others, but more importantly, everyone else was encouraging.

I simply could not have held myself accountable without everyone else knowing as well.  The momentum from the first post built up, and carried through until I made working out a habit and completed my goal.  I now work out regularly just because I enjoy it and have trained myself to be self-motivated based on past positive experiences.

As I wrote at the top, this doesn’t just apply to fitness.  If you have a goal, tell people about it.  Tell your closest friends, tell your acquaintances, even tell random people when the subject comes up; according to one study you’ll at least be 1/3rd more likely to complete it by doing so[1].  Motivation will snowball and you’ll find it easier and more fun each day to get closer to completing them.

Try it and see if this will keep you holding yourself accountable. By posting a goal you may be more motivated to stick to it., especially if you share it with people who will check up on you! Just remember to keep them realistic.

Stay True to Yourself

stay true to yourselfStating your personal plans to everyone can make you stress out more if you get a rough start. It can be demotivational if you think that people no longer expect you to commit to a routine or diet. You can set yourself up for failure or stay true to yourself.

 

 

This TED talk cites several studies and argues the theory that you are actually less likely to achieve a goal if you talk about it with others. The theory is that by telling others your plans, their praise and support falsely make you feel like you’ve already achieved or worked toward your goal, and so you’re not going to work toward it quite as much.

I’ve always been conservative about sharing my personal goals. But this is because I dislike forming or living up to others’ expectations – I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious personality. Similarly, however, I’m hesitant to have long-term expectations from others and, therefore, rely on myself to attain the goals. For example, although I did P90X with my husband for a couple of rounds, which was motivational most of the time, on other days, when he decided to do something else, I held on to the workout routine that I had committed myself to doing. I still shared my plans with a couple of close friends, and eventually the people in my daily life all figured out that something was up as my routines changed etc., but I never posted my commitment, nor achievements, to Facebook.

Perhaps you disagree with the studies and TED talk, and maybe they didn’t research long-term goals specifically, but it is important to be aware of the expectations you set. I know many people who are consistently setting goals but never actually committing to them. One reason for this is that people get discouraged by hard work, that they don’t realize the magnanimity of the commitment they’re making or that they’re not specific enough to attain. Be careful of such pitfalls and work around them: for example you can set goals that build on each other so that you build a realistic short-term game plan into your schedule to gradually achieve a big dream.

Just Ingredients: Back to Basics

peanut-butter

Next time you’re reaching for that jar of peanut butter, at least take the time to read the ingredients. You may be brand-loyal and always buy the same thing, but it may have four, five or even twenty ingredients on the label when it should only have one: peanuts. The same thing goes for oatmeal, egg whites and many other packaged foods. It’s time that we go back to basics.

This segment of the blog will feature single-ingredient foods. Not only will I focus on the pros and cons of including these foods in your daily diet, but hopefully also shed some light on healthy portion sizes or my preferred alternatives.

Debunking Myths about Diet Soda

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Just a few of the many diet sodas out there

If you’re planning on dieting, you may be tempted to reach for a can just because it says “diet” on it and advertises zero calories.

But does diet soda help you stick to your diet?

Many people believe that diet sodas cause weight gain. A Yale Prevention Center spokesperson claims, based on extensive research of the literature and studies done on the subject, that diet soda does not cause weight gain.[1]  But the Yale Prevention Center is funded by the Center’s for Disease Control (CDC), which in turn is influenced by lobbyist groups, including beverage producers. So although drinking diet soda and weight gain may be correlated according to some studies, the majority of scientific literature does not prove that diet soda causes weight gain.

Myth #1 debunked: Diet soda does not directly cause weight gain

Assuming that diet soda is not causing people to gain weight, will it help satisfy a sweet tooth?

Oprah says it best: “Artificial sweeteners are more than 100 times sweeter than natural table sugar. This is cause for concern since naturally sweet foods, like fruits, won’t seem as sweet to a desensitized palate.”[2][3]

Myth #2 debunked: Diet soda will not satisfy your sweet tooth

U.S. news research concluded that the effect of sweeteners on taste preference may be why studies have not been able to prove that diet soda helps consumers like you and I control our weight.[4]

In other words, when we consume sweets, including diet soda, we crave more sweets. This makes sense to me because I was shocked to see how much less I was tempted by sweets when I cut high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from my diet… and I’m consistently surprised at how my taste preferences evolve whenever I consciously stop eating foods for more than a few days without any kind of sweeteners added. I’ll be posting more about why sugar, HFCS and other kinds of artificial sweeteners are bad for you at a later date.

In conclusion of all of this research, however, diet soda makes it easier for you to stray from your ideal diet. You have to make your own choices every day, and not drinking soda will help you be healthier, even if it does not contain calories.

Here’s a similar post that I found when doing my research, it’s written by a dietician: http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2012/08/can-i-drink-diet-soda-without-gaining-weight-diet-myth-5/

Schedule workouts: Just do it

No Excuses

Just like you eat, sleep and breathe every day, your body works best when you exercise every day. Even if you don’t feel like it, your body needs regular exercise to stay alive for the long-term.

But the excuses always creep up, which is a big reason why I am motivated to write this blog and help others stay committed to exercising. Before I seriously committed to doing a workout at least an hour-long X times a week (and kept increasing this number until I got to 6) I often had trouble sleeping, I was moody and I hardly lost weight despite watching what I was eating. But the thing that has helped me keep going is developing a routine.

The key once I finally started losing significant weight, was that I was specific with exactly how much time I would spend, and when. I now schedule in the time to take care of myself properly, and thereby consistently “get around” to exercising. And I didn’t wait for a specific turn of events to start doing this: I got inspired and planned a workout.

Do whatever works for you: develop the habit of working out regularly by scheduling your workouts as far out in advance as you need to. Form a sound routine and stick to it: If you don’t feel like doing your planned workout, be spontaneous with a different workout instead.

If you really can’t bring your energy level up then take the time you already have set aside to go for a walk and stretch your muscles. I have a couple of routines for such days that are easy on the body and mostly involve stretching with some cardio.

Never let yourself down, show up and take care of your body. You will be better for it. The bottom line is: just do it.

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My First Change: A commitment to water

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health
How Soft Drinks Impact Your Health

This video poignantly presents the obesity epidemic as a result of our sedentary lifestyle and calorie consumption, not because of the individual choices we make in where our calories come from. The Coca-Cola Company is right that every calorie counts, but cutting calories is not the key to reducing obesity! If you drink a soda, you’re slowing down your body’s ability to process anything else that you may ingest. Consequently, you won’t walk off the soda because your body’s reaction to it is a lot more complex.

My strategy: Cut out all drinks but water. You’ll feel a whole lot better, especially after the first two-weeks of adjusting. For the first day or so you can also put greens in water, like a cucumber slice or sprig of mint, if you strongly dislike plain water – but eventually your taste buds will adapt to its non-sweetened flavor.

Non-caloric and natural alternatives to water include tea and coffee with no additives, particularly decaffeinated versions (caffeine may negatively impact you, I’ll post more on that later). Strive to completely eliminate other drinks from your diet. Drinks you may perceive as healthy, like fruit juice, still have lots of sugar (I’ll be debunking myths about fruit juice later this week). Alcoholic beverages are not only harmful to you because they lower your inhibitions but also because your liver and pancreas have to work overtime to metabolize the alcohol. Furthermore, drinking too much can lower your immune system.[1] Also it’s good to avoid better-for-you drinks like milk, protein shakes, Kefir or Kombucha for the first two weeks because they will not fill your belly like solid food.

As The Coca-Cola Company says about the obesity epidemic, “finding a solution will take continued effort from all of us.” This simple drinking adjustment will help you reduce the number of calories you consume daily without the negative effects of drinking soda. Keep in mind, though, that this is just one part of being healthy.

As a side note:

The Atlantic published an article this week about American’s beverage choices and the chart below, it’s nice to see that people are increasingly choosing to drink water over other drinks. (click on the chart for the full article)

Consistency is the Key to Fitness

It’s hard to stand by your lifestyle during certain events, while travelling, and around others.
It’s hard to stand by your lifestyle during certain events, while travelling, and around others.
It’s hard to stand by your lifestyle during certain events, while travelling, and around others.

Treating yourself right is a 24/7 job that you will not do properly if you’re constantly giving yourself excuses.  Consistency is the key to fitness.

That said, nobody’s perfect.  It’s hard to stand by your lifestyle during certain events, while travelling, and around others. For example, it is hard for me to go to Subway with my husband and not get a sandwich while we are there, even if I know that I’ll enjoy my salad more anyway and feel better afterward.  He has different health goals and different eating habits than I do, and I respect that.

It took me a couple of years of living healthy before I started experimenting with specific exercise, nutrition or wellness regimens like P90X or a gluten free diet – and I’m still figuring out what exactly works best.  (I’ll talk about the importance of variety later on.)

During the holiday season I gave myself one meal each holiday to break all of my new eating habits. To my surprise, despite planning to pig out, I found that I still stuck to portion sizes for the most part just because I’ve now learned how to eat more slowly and stop when I feel full. The next day however, I ended up feeling a lot heavier and mentally cloudy. This reinforces my current eating habits because I’m much less likely to stray knowing I’ll feel worse the next day.

Special occasions are still special and parties are still fun, heck I enjoy them more knowing that I’m sticking to my beliefs and that I’ll feel good the next day. The bottom line is to figure out what works best for you and what you can maintain.  Start by forming basic habits that will work for you rather than against you every single day.

Fresh Grit: Taking care of yourself

I was overweight, and the pounds packed on during college.

Fresh Grit is about taking care of yourself – encompassing wholesome eating, drinking, working, exercising and sleeping.

It’s been challenging and incredibly rewarding turning my health around.

How do you take care of yourself? I’m sure everyone does the best they can, but more than 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[1]. And yet people don’t believe that they are overweight according to a recent Gallup Poll, which found that the majority of Americans maintain that their weight is “just about right.” (Click on the chart at the bottom of this post to learn how people’s perspectives have changed over time) There must be a fundamental flaw in what society teaches. The misinformation out there about health astounds me, and I want to help people better understand themselves.

We are not idiots, and yet a lot of us believe myths about our bodies, especially about what we eat.

I’ll be addressing many of these myths throughout the blog because, growing up, I believed that dieting was bad. Back then associated dieting with eating disorders and I vowed that I would never go on a diet. I defined dieting as watching what you eat and omitting certain things from your daily meals. I ate irregularly and excessively; I often indulged in sweets and sweet drinks. Although I hardly lived a sedentary lifestyle, regular workouts were rare; I was on some seasonal recreational sports teams, went on walks or swam laps occasionally. By the time I graduated from high school I was overweight, and the pounds packed on during college.

A few weeks before completing my studies, I took advantage of still having health insurance and went to the doctor; my blood test results signaled possible ailments up the road, and I decided to take the warning seriously. From the day after my last final, I’ve studied and experimented with nutrition, exercise and all the other components of my lifestyle. It’s been challenging and incredibly rewarding turning my health around. I plan to share my successes, failures and research as I continue on this journey.

Gallup Americans Self-Reported Weight