10 for 2010: Programming My Life for Health Success

Prologue

Today, it’s the start of a whole new thang. It’s 2010.

This is a loosey-goosey promise ‘cos we all know weeks can go off-the-hook in a hurry, but I’m gonna try my damnedest to have 10 days of 2010 — postings big or small about either reflecting on the Year That Was or projecting on The Year to Be. They’re not written yet, hence the iffyness of my promise, but it’s exciting to think what crazy direction such an unplanned writing promise could lead me in. I prefer writing such things in the thick of the moment; it’s more honest and raw when I do. Here’s hoping. :)

The Meat

Here in Vancouver, Canada, it’s Olympics time. The big winter show rolls in this February. Everyone’s gonna get higher, faster, higher, stronger. Citius, altius, fortius, baby.

2009, my goal was to continue my weightloss and take another 50 pounds off, like I had in ’08. Unfortunately… my back injury made that questionable. Deep down, I had an asterisk on my resolution. It was, if my back injury proved to be worse than suspected, I just wanted to survive the year and be much better than I ended it. Maintaining my weight would be acceptable…

But after losing / gaining for the year, I’ve succeeded in being about 20 pounds lighter than I was last New Year’s. Given that back injury took nearly a year to rehab past the daily-pain point, I’m really proud of that number.

This year, though. This New Year’s? There is no asterisk.

2010 is my bitch.

The Plan

Today was spent — after being sick since Christmas — doing light housework and rearranging my pantry. The first of my many steps I’ll be taking in the coming week toward total world domination.

My January will be spent getting back into the mode of being healthy, with a couple sharp kicks to the gluttony groin — cutting out butter on bread, and no more cream in coffee. At 3 cups of black coffee a day and 2 pieces of unbuttered toast five times a week, just THOSE TWO CHANGES amounts to about 10,000 calories in the month. Almost 3 pounds. Add in portion control, some calorie counting, and hardcore cardio exercise? Pretty easy to reach 10 pounds in that first month. Last year, I managed 12 pounds in 3 weeks after Christmas.

What are the practical steps I’m taking that you might want to consider as we all ramp up our health games in the early going of the new year? All the same ones I put into play before I lost 50 pounds in a year, then that quick post-Christmas 12 pounds in January ’09. Let me share some with you.

1. Pantry Rearranging

I take stock of what I have in my house. Anything I use as a vehicle for unhealthy behaviour — like how I love Special K with brown sugar on it, but won’t eat it plain — I throw out or donate to the food bank. I’m rearranging things so that everything at eye-level is a whole-grain product, canned veggies and beans, and other food that requires actual cooking — not processed shit. In fact, you should be tossing as much processed food as you can. I’ll keep things like taco seasoning, but I’ll use it with turkey, not beef.

Also, I’m using this opportunity this time to re-evaluate those things in my kitchen. What’s the calorie-count in it? Fat? How high’s the sodium? Should I really eat THAT?

2. Getting a Food Gameplan that Works with Your Life

I’m doing the food gameplan thing, and it’s probably the most important step I take to ensure my success. How?

The best way to do this is, figure out the food you have on hand — a great thing to work with in the financially-strapped weeks after Christmas — and figure out menu plans with what you have, and what ingredients you need to fill the holes in that plan. Be realistic. If you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. Find a way to make things you love healthy, whether by changing how you prepare it or improving what you accompany with it. That won’t do much for you, though, if you’re not going to eat what you know you need.

The most unhealthy thing you can do when losing weight? Eating out or doing takeout. No matter how healthy that food looks, I guarantee you that every commercial place is making that dish with twice the fat and salt that you could/would use at home. Why? Because all the flavour’s in fat and salt.

Eating out ONCE a day, they say, adds an average of 500 calories to your daily intake. Oh, gee, and 7 days times 500 calories = 3,500 calories, or, boom-shakka-lacka, one pound.

Me, I have the luxury of rearranging my work schedule. I get up, stretch, do my writing in the mornings, start work late, then eat lunch/dinner on my job, so I can workout after work, then eat a post-workout snack before 9.

3. Schedule Time for Food Prep

To make the above plan work without resorting to takeout, I’ll have to do food prep before my week begins. What’s that entail?

This Sunday, like most Sundays, I’ll be cooking. I’m roasting a ham, making a quick-and-easy chicken soup, and whizzing up a batch of hummus.* The ham can be used in sandwiches or salads or with side veg, all week long. The soup freezes and is great for lunches. The hummus guarantees me healthy, easy eating at work all week, too. All low-fat, high-protein, and versatile for the week. When living healthy, I also like to take a large divided Tupperware container and chop up veggies for the week’s salads. Let’s face it, if you’ve worked out for an hour after commuting more than an hour for an 8-hour-day job, the last thing you want is complicated dinners — but takeout’s deadly. A salad you can literally throw together, with a few scraps of roasted meat from the weekend, saves your life, feels great after a workout, and is cheap on the pocketbook.

An afternoon of meal-prep work on Sunday can be the difference between a 3-pound weightloss and a 2-pound weight-gain in a week. Do the math.

4. Start Simple.

Just be accountable. KNOW what you’re eating. If that means doing the LiveStrong or FitDay calorie-counting for a few weeks, then you’ll be in the proper mindset without all that stupid fucking around with numbers, but, yeah, it’s necessary to obsess about it for 3-4 weeks because it creates the all-day-every-calorie awareness you’ll need in order to be successful.

And pick a way to eliminate 100 calories a day off the start, and try to find another one after a few weeks of successful losses, because you need to up those targets after a while. Me, I’m eliminating an average of 300 calories a day with two small steps, cutting out the coffee cream and the butter — because I know I’ve been blowing it calorie-wise for a while now.

So 300 calories sounds like a lot, but they’re small actions with huge reward. Know what happens to me when I have less butter on bread? I don’t want as much bread. And I’ll nearly never eat cheese if I can’t have it with buttered toast. Bad habits, I know, but that’s the dietary circle of life for you. Seldom does bad behaviour NOT have a domino effect.

That’s why, when I started all my weightloss with this no-butter-no-cream method two years ago, I lost 18 pounds in 2 months. I’ve used butter ever since then, though, so I’m curious how much effect it will have this time. (Rules are different this time, too — I’m allowed to cook with it, just never have it on bread, because then I’ll have less bread, mehopes.)

Tomorrow: Thoughts to consider as you tackle a better, healthier you. Where you come from mentally will dictate how successful you are long-term. My thoughts on that.

Here’s to us all kicking ass in 2010.

Citius, altius, fortius, baby.

*As an example: Hummus is a very important thing to make yourself. Tahini, one of the primary ingredients, is basically the same fat content as peanut butter. I make a lower-fat hummous by using the cooking or canning liquid for the beans and cutting tahini in half. I add very little oil. Many commercial hummus concoctions seem really heavy on the tahini… which is pretty pointless, as it’s pretty flavourless. Explore hummus recipes and substitute some tahini with liquid from the beans. It’s as good or better, guaranteed! You can make a large batch and freeze it in portions that will last a week in the work fridge.