Life hacks, fixes and fails: The art of making myself better, one experiment at a time. (Part 1)

It’s been a while since I published a blog post. The last year has not been without its capers hijinks and folly, but in keeping with the blog’s namesake, It’s better that I focus on where I am than spend time in the rehashing of… well.. hash.

I’ve always been a tinkerer. I’m interested in what makes people and things tick. It’s at this point that I admit that as a kid, I was the one who loved to take things apart. That said, I rarely ever got them back together, and even less seldom was I able to get them to actually work again. Recently, I’ve begun conducting social experiments on myself. Nothing Frankensteinian mind you, just tweaks here and there. Currently I’m on day 12 of a thirty day TV, Facebook and Instagram sabbatical, and am on week 3 of my new 4:30am wake up time. Both experiments are the first step in a comprehensive productivity and wellness plan that I intend to implement over the next 10 weeks. Before I go into the plan itself, I think it’s important that I spend some time discussing the checks and balances that will keep me on track along the way.

The goal

Don’t worry, I am not going to site some survey that claims that if you write a goal on a piece of paper towel you’re 638 times more likely to attain it (how do they measure that anyway?). That said, there needs to be a goal, and it needs to be real. My goal is to get below 200 pounds by Thanksgiving day and to run a 5k is less than 24 minutes and 30 seconds. There’s a little over 10 weeks between today and Thanksgiving. My current weight is 225. With diet and exercise, I should not have a problem losing 2-3 pounds a week. Famous last words, I know.

The reason

Res ipsa loquitur is a fancy latin signphrase that translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” Lawyers like to throw it around when they think the explanation for something is obvious. A dead guy is found under a car, res ipsa, the guy was hit and killed by the car. The only problem is that anybody who’s seen an episode of CSI (choose the city), Columbo or Murder She Wrote can  come up with at least 100 ways that guy could have actually bought it. Similarly, far too often we are foolish enough to buy-in to the fallacy that weight loss its its own reward (if that target weight were so clearly sacred, we’d have never soared past it). I’m pretty good about going to the doctor. I haven’t always been, so a few years ago, I decided to just make appointments on and around my birthday every year so as not to forget. This year my doctor told me that if I don’t lose weight next year we’d have to have the diabetes talk. Nuff said. That was  just about two months and 20 pounds ago. At 38, I’m getting too old to carry excess weight. If the threat of giving myself a diabetes weren’t enough, this summer my achilles tendons decided they wanted to add their voice to the cacophony of aches and pains that I now wake to.

The plan A plan

“Give yourself multiple opportunities for success; there’s a whole alphabet full of letters, don’t stop at plan A.” This was my response to a friend who was lamenting not being able to workout  because her ever-changing work schedule conflicted with her planned run. Excellent advice, if I say so myself. If I’m honest though, I have to admit that it’s advice I rarely follow when it comes to fitness. I’m great at the creation of a fitness plan. Detailed, organized, the proper mix of attainable and challenging, my plans have it all, except flexibility. Random story alert:

Last Summer I decided to compete in the Nations Triathlon. The winter was bone cold, trouble with my achilles made training over the summer painful (not to mention that food was delicious year-round and I had done my share of indulging), but I was committed to competing the 1 mile swim, 26 mile bike, and 6 mile run no matter what the cost. The night before the event, it stormed. I did not care; I would compete in the Trirain if I had to. The morning of the race I woke to alerts that the swim portion of the race would be canceled due to a sewage spill into the Potomac associated with the previous night’s rain. Don’t get me wrong, swimming in waste is not my thing. I know that I would have likely gotten sick and I am glad that the race and the city have the type of oversight in place to look of for the best interests of fools, because I know that given the option, I would have swum (swum? Dang, yep, swum). Upon reading the alerts, I wanted to crawl back into bed. I didn’t though. I showed up, biked and ran hard, beating the times I’d set for myself for those events (maybe because I didn’t have a swim tire me out or maybe because I had a chip on my shoulder), collected my medal, and went home vowing to finish business next year.

Without flexibility, plans are little more than a houses of cards waiting for shi life to come along and knock them down. With that in mind, the plan I created for this journey is not just flexible, it’s organic. Over time I fully expect it to grow, learn, make mistakes, take time off, and become part of me.

Part 1: Eating

More than any cardio or weight routine, eating is the key. Don’t believe me, ask any pro athlete or trainer how often they take a day off from training. Then ask how often they take a day off from eating. We good? Same page? Okay, let’s continue. With that in mind I had to be honest with myself about what I was eating and why. After some thought, I realized that the majority of my meals fell into 4 categories:

  1. Merriment -dates, brunches and dinners with friends, holidays with family or loved ones;
  2. Filler – out and about, lunch at work;
  3. Emergency – rabid hunger, dealing with the kid, no time to plan, food in mouth now; and
  4. Home – meals planned or cooked at home, around the house snacks.

At this point, I’m leaving number 1 as is. Statistically, it represents the fewest amount of meals, they tend to be the most memorable, and everyone deserves a little leeway. As I learn my plan and vise versa, even the meals I eat for merriment will become healthier. Meals 2, 3 and 4 represent 85 to 90 percent of my meals in a given week. If I can upgrade them, the immediate impact will be palpable.

The problem – I love to cook. I’m pretty good at it. I love the spectacle of the endeavor -some of this, some of that, a pinch, a dash, perfecto! Before I know it, I have used every dish in the kitchen.  I am terrible at cleaning up (all that spectacling makes a chef tired).  For that reason, I rarely mix it up in the kitchen.

The fix

Cooking simpler. These days, the lion’s share of the meals I prepare consist of meat, and vegetables. I’ve read up on the whole paleo deal. I’m not for or against it, it seems to work for some and make others mad (that’s what happens when you try to take people’s garlic bread, cheddar bay biscuits and croissants away). I’m not sure I agree with the science, but this part is undeniable, replacing non-vegetable sides (especially if the side is white -I’m looking at you pasta, rice and potatoes) with vegetables equals a healthier plate and fewer pounds. These days, in my kitchen I cook meat either on a Foreman grill or in the oven and my vegetables are either grilled, steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, roasted or raw. I’ve also begun archiving recipes to expand my repertoire. The result, much much much less prep and cook time and very little cleanup. I can make a healthy lunch in less than 20 min (cleanup time included) while ironing a shirt. With the exception of a few Lunchables I keep in the event of an emergency, I’ve rid my place of all chips cookies and crackers. The kiddo has been receptive to grapes, mandarin oranges and mickey mouse shaped cheese as substitutes for her Cheetos, and popsicles get a warmer reception out of her than ben and jerry’s ever did (with 3 year olds, there is no accounting for taste).  I keep stockpiles of fruit and baby carrots to fill out my lunchbag, snack on while at home, and to take with me in the car on weekend adventures. As a result, the pounds have been coming off, I can better plan my filler meals, emergencies have become less frequent, and my meals at home are quicker, more kid friendly and easier to clean up after.


-During the week, breakfast consists of a cup of plain greek yogurt, a fistful of blueberries, 4-5 strawberries and a table spoon of super cereal.

-Water is a key player in the game. Not just because helps your body’s internal filters function, or because  .5 x (number of pounds you weigh) = number of ounces of water you should drink each day, more than because zero calories are compelling, but the main reason we should all drink it is because dehydrated skin is inelastic skin. When you lose your weight, the best way for your skin to recover is to keep it properly hydrated. Start now!

-I switched to a GNC blend of vitamins and added a joint supplement. It’s hard to tell with vitamins, but my energy is high, I have had no knee issues and my achilles tendons, while sore, ache much less. Admittedly, with the money I spent at GNC, I want to feel better so bad I’d probably have the same report had they given me jellybeans.

-Emergencies still happen. These days my go to meal to is one of those hot rotisserie chickens from the grocery store, a bag of power greens (kale, spinach and chard), cherry tomatoes, grapes, crumbled blue cheese and a table spoon of super cereal for crunch topped with a homemade vinaigrette I keep around. Portions and calories vary depending on the size of the emergency.

In my part 2, I’ll discuss the activity portion of my plan.

3 thoughts on “Life hacks, fixes and fails: The art of making myself better, one experiment at a time. (Part 1)

  1. Wow, you are such a great writer. Amusing, entertaining, informational, useful, inspirational, humorous, clever. You’re so good. I look forward to your next post. Oh yea, I am glad that your dedication to eating better and exercising is paying off and becoming a lifestyle habit. Auntie Mimi

  2. First of all I am so excited that you are writing again! Recalibration is necessary for success and the fact that you embrace it is refreshing.
    That is great advice you gave to your friend about not having to stick to plan A. So many times I pigeon hole myself when I do not complete an activity that I planned at a certain time.
    I am a past sufferer of analysis paralysis (I say past because I am not claiming it today). Your post motivates me to keep pushing!
    Thank you!

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