As I indicated in a prior post, The game of life, I planned to post updates to help my motivation.  I've learned that my projects go much better when I periodically look objectively at my results thus far and make a conscious decision how to proceed.

I had initially planned an update every 9 days since it just happened that I was 108 days out from my goal when I started and being a geek I couldn't help but see the evenly divided intervals.  But, alas, I have missed not only 99 days but also 90.  We now stand 86 days from my goal and this is my first update.

So from an eating perspective it's been easy, I've been able to avoid all but a very small taste of sweets and all but a very small amount of grains.

I think it was easy because before starting I made an effort to pay attention to how crappy I felt.  How I was tired and always lacking something trying to find it in sugary snacks or in caffeine laden beverages.

And—I think this was stronger motivation—I also made an effort to actually imagine two alternate futures.  One where I now took responsibility for my health and one where I continued to drift eating and acting based on whim or emotion.

The first was me in 20 years, strong and healthy working with my daughters on some sort of outdoor project, maybe helping them build a new garden or shed in one of their homes, but here I was a man of 55 (the same age as my father when he died) doing hard physical work with my shirt off and not inappropriately.  Feeling temporarily winded from a recent extreme exertion and resting for a moment, taking a deep breath and feeling the exhilaration of being alive and reshaping existence to my will and paying with my effort.  And I was just at that moment before I plunge back in and continue at a hard task that will still take another hour or so after which I will enjoy a restful afternoon with good food and surrounded by loved ones.

The second I don't like to think about, but I do anyway.  It was me in 20 years.  I can't really picture myself like I can in the first vision, but I am able "…to guess by hints, to see everything through the greater intensity of implication."1 And in this case I am looking out.  I see myself in the sterile hospital environment.  I am uncomfortable, I've just woken up and have been laying this way for a long time, a few hours, a few weeks? I am just so tired and sore I can barely muster the energy to move.  I finally notice that here again I am surrounded by loved ones.  But this time the looks on their faces are masks of tragedy.  In this imagining I really pictured my daughters as young adults, they were beautiful if they weren't so sad.  I wanted to tell Allison that nothing could be so tragic as to put such a look on her face, and she tried to smile for me when she saw me awake, but the pity there was worse.  And Ashley never one to attempt to hide her emotions wouldn't even smile and was barely able to look at me.  I reached out for them with a tremendous effort and saw the tubes snaking around my arms.  And my arms were thin, flabby and pale.  Then I saw Michelle and it the suffering she was obviously trying to hide from me was more than I could bear.

I didn't bother to fill in details about what particular disease had put me in such a terrible condition.  But to concretize the threats to my future of living a lifestyle where I ignore what I've learned about nutrition has helped my motivation tremendously.

I've diverged a bit from my original intent of this article into that motivation that has made the choice on what to eat easy.  Now to sum up my update.  My two primary measures of the effectiveness of my health sprint are my weight and how I feel energy wise and general comfort level.

Over the past 18 days I've felt great.  I made a great effort to get plenty of sleep, and I can't remember being better rested.  My energy level has been excellent.  I seem to wake up ready to take on the day and keep a more or less constant energy level until the end of the day when I start to get tired and ready for bed.  My creativity level has been high, and my stress level has been low.  I take surprises and emergencies at work well and have been less defensive when criticized or when I perceived criticism.  Also I've been very productive at work and in my personal projects making great strides toward my goals.  Finally I feel stronger.  I've been doing pushups occasionally at work and they've certainly gotten easier to do.

As far as the scale, well that is the millstone, and the challenge or opportunity.  I've only dropped about 2 pounds per the chart software I use.  In the past when I've done this I've dropped weight more rapidly.

HackDiet chart

Based on this I am going to tweak my approach in an attempt to speed things up a bit. My plan is:

  1. Cut out dairy (I got a milk frother for my birthday and have been enjoying tea lattes so for now that will pause)
  2. Go to the gym more often, I am going to target 1 trip every 3 days.

Other than that it's no sugar, no grains as I stated at the outset.  I anticipate feeling great, stronger and being lighter.  I'll plan another update in a few days.

Maybe on 81 days to go.

  1. Borrowing a short quote from my favorite book of all time The Fountainhead.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Another change I've made recently to help with my overall health is to try using a scheduling infrastructure for my day. For about three weeks now I've been using the Pomodoro Technique to plan and track my activity throughout the day. It's improving my productivity and also helping me lose weight. This relates to my physical health in two ways, first if I spend my days full of anxiety about all the things I'm not doing I can never get physically well. Second it makes me do push-ups.

That probably needs an explanation. Pomodoro is a time-boxing technique that guides you to do 25 minutes of highly focused activity followed by a short 5 minute break. In the PDF the author suggests it should be a real break from any thinking about work. I found the transition from a hard thinking task to a state of mental relaxation to be very difficult to pull off, my mind–already warmed up to the topic–would wander back to the problem I was working on. So I decided to do a set of push-ups to help me relax.

So far I've gotten better at pushups, squats, and sit-ups. Oh, and I'm enjoying my productivity based primarily on the structure to my day. It helps me concretize the idea that I can only do so many things in a day and helps me at the hard task of prioritizing my time. It also helps me measure how long I take at certain tasks. Since I chronically underestimate I welcome the opportunity to improve my judgement.

AuthorKevin McAllister

When sacrificing sleep to do important work or play I've often made the remark, "I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead."  But little did I realize that by not getting adequate sleep I was working to bring that day closer.

I was clued into this fact by the various Paleo resources I've studied over the past few years particularly Robb Wolf's, The Paleo Solution.  So I started paying attention to how I functioned on various levels of sleep.  I learned that I was able to think, act and feel much better when I was well rested.  I remember thinking, "Does anyone else know about this? It is actually possible to walk around with nearly super-human ability simply by consistently getting a full night of sleep!"

Now in my defense, I not only attended college but also have two young children and have worked primarily at technology start-ups throughout my career.  So sleep was scarce in my life and somehow I just had to find a way to get things done.

But it's not super-human, it's regular-human to sleep when tired, wake up well rested and feel alert and energetic during your days.  A good sign of trouble is you need chemicals to wake up and function at all and at bedtime you can't figure out how to fall asleep.

So I failed to mention in my initial post on my plan to win at the game of life that one other thing that is going to help me meet my health goals is to get plenty of glorious sleep. You too should get plenty of sleep tonight, you deserve it!

AuthorKevin McAllister