Healthy Hack #6: No, Thank You

About Healthy Hacks

As you may already know if you have been following me, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to escape from my lifelong obesity and to lose over 100 pounds in under a year.

My results significantly exceeded my expectations and I lost 100 pound in 9 months, 120 in the first year and am still going strong – 130+ pounds in 16 months to-date. The pinnacle of my journey so far was completing my first half marathon just 16 months after weighing in at 325 pounds!

Throughout my fitness journey I have been repeatedly asked the same question: what’s your secret?

While there is no true “secret” to successful weight loss there are some techniques that worked well for me. I am going to share these techniques with you through this Healthy Hacks series in the Operation Melt blog.

Please read on because I am confident that these hacks can become the “secret” to your success with your own health & fitness journey.

No, Thank You

Over the past two weeks at work people have brought in pizza, 5 or 6 batches of donuts, cinnamon rolls, cake, ice cream cake, homemade candy and on Monday there will be smoked meats. That is just the beginning of the list of things that people have brought in for the team.

This is a similar situation to the one that many workplaces experience particularly at this time of the year. There are snacks and other goodies every day and each person seems to bring in something. People are usually very kind and very generous and want to help make the work environment a pleasant experience. So they share and I love that about them.

Unfortunately, when people bring in delicious foods and offer to share them, they don’t know that you are working on a fitness journey. Nor should they. Your journey is personal and it is not meant to change the behavior of anybody but you.

If you aren’t prepared the generosity of others can be a big risk to your goals.

The good news is that there isn’t a complex, multi-step strategy to being prepared and reacting to these offers. You simply need 3 words: “No, Thank You.

Confidently saying “no, thank you” when somebody offers you foods that don’t align with your plan is all it takes. You don’t need to make up an excuse, you don’t need to give any explanation and you don’t need to be apologetic. This is your journey and it is important to you and you don’t need to feel inadequate because you are sticking to your goals.

Only you know which treats fit into your plan and which don’t so make sure to make a real time evaluation that is based on facts not emotion. Then make your decision about whether or not you want to accept or decline the offer of the treat.

This is a simply strategy but it isn’t easy. It does get a little easier over time but it is never easy and it is a reminder that your can’t leave your fitness to auto-pilot. Constant discipline and diligence and analytical decision making about your food intake is critical.

I hope this strategy that works for me every day can also be beneficial to you. I want you to be successful with reaching your goals because the feeling when you get there is totally worth saying no to that cookie when it doesn’t fit into your plan.

Healthy Hack #5: Healthy holidays

About Healthy Hacks

As you may already know if you have been following me, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to escape from my lifelong obesity and to lose over 100 pounds in under a year.

My results significantly exceeded my expectations and I lost 100 pound in 9 months, 120 in the first year and am still going strong – 130+ pounds in 16 months to-date. The pinnacle of my journey so far was completing my first half marathon just 16 months after weighing in at 325 pounds!

Throughout my fitness journey I have been repeatedly asked the same question: what’s your secret?

While there is no true “secret” to successful weight loss there are some techniques that worked well for me. I am going to share these techniques with you through this Healthy Hacks series in the Operation Melt blog.

Please read on because I am confident that these hacks can become the “secret” to your success with your own health & fitness journey.

Healthy holidays!

The holidays are officially here! I have run in the Jingle Bell Run, attended Village Lights in German Village and our tree is up. Christmas music is a permanent fixture for the next few weeks. And our calendar is starting to fill up with holiday events.

You know what else… there are cookies, spiked cider, spiked hot chocolate, rich foods, pastries and the list goes on. There are happy hours and cookie parties. There are sweet treats being given as gifts. Plus it is too cold to go outside and run frequently.

If you aren’t careful the holidays can torpedo your fitness journey. Preventing a negative impact on your goals requires some work. And that is the topic of this week’s Healthy Hacks.

This week I am sharing 3 strategies that I use to stay on track for my goals even during the holidays.

Strategy #1: Indulge but Keep Score

The first step to balancing holidays and fitness is not to deprive yourself.

Holidays are about traditions and togetherness and fun. It is hard to fully enjoy the holidays if you withhold all indulgences from yourself. So give yourself permission to indulge. Eat a couple of those homemade cookies, enjoy that holiday ale, enjoy that big family dinner and don’t make yourself feel miserable through the holidays.

While you are enjoying your holiday indulgences just make sure you are not doing it mindlessly. Keep track of what you are eating and drinking. Write it all down or log it in an app so you know what you have done. By keeping track you can break your mind from the auto-pilot effect and you make conscious decision.

Strategy #2: Plan ahead

There are times during the holidays when you know that you are going to have unhealthy events. For example you know that Thanksgiving dinner will be a high-calorie meal; it is a predictable occurrence.

When you know that you are going to have an event that is more on the unhealthy side you can plan ahead through the rest of your day. When you are going to have a big dinner make sure to have a super healthy breakfast and lunch. Make sure to work some exercise into your day to get some calorie burn.

If you plan ahead you can be sure that one unhealthy event doesn’t blow your entire day.

Strategy #3: Add in some new active traditions

Finally it is time to start some new holiday traditions.

Maybe start adding in some active events as new traditions. Start running a Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot with family or friends. You can always find a New Years Day run. You can go for long walks to check out Christmas lights. In Columbus we have a German Village stroll in December to check out street performers, lights, luminaries and various local merchants.

One sure fire way to offset unhealthy eating is to work in more exercise. Since the holidays are a time for togetherness it can also be a time to exercise together.

I hope these strategies that have worked for me can also be beneficial to you. Make sure to make the most of the holidays but try to stay healthy at the same time.

Healthy Hack #4: Make drinking a little healthier

About Healthy Hacks

As you may already know if you have been following me, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to escape from my lifelong obesity and to lose over 100 pounds in under a year.

My results significantly exceeded my expectations and I lost 100 pound in 9 months, 120 in the first year and am still going strong – 130+ pounds in 16 months to-date. The pinnacle of my journey so far was completing my first half marathon just 16 months after weighing in at 325 pounds!

Throughout my fitness journey I have been repeatedly asked the same question: what’s your secret?

While there is no true “secret” to successful weight loss there are some techniques that worked well for me. I am going to share these techniques with you through this Healthy Hacks series in the Operation Melt blog.

Please read on because I am confident that these hacks can become the “secret” to your success with your own health & fitness journey.

Make drinking a little healthier

I have a confession to make… throughout my fitness journey I have continued to drink alcohol. I have achieved my fitness results without going dry. In fact I drink fairly regularly with meals and when going out with friends. Like everything else I made drinking alcohol fit into my plan.

Drinking alcohol is never never really a healthy choice. Beyond the consumption of the alcohol itself it is also very high calorie without any associated nutritional value. So I really believe the healthiest option is not to drink alcohol at all.

If you do choose to continue to partake during your fitness journey there are 3 major strategies to help make it a little healthier.

Strategy #1: Portion

Like many other areas of your fitness journey size matters!

I have walked into some chain restaurants and ordered a beer and have watched it come out in a 22 or 32 ounce massive glass. That is a lot of alcohol to be considered, in your mind, as being just one drink.

When you think of drinking a beer the normal portion size is 12 ounces which is the size of a can or normal bottle of beer. When you order draft it usually comes out as a pint which is 16 ounces – one and a third servings. Every ounce adds calories!

So the first strategy is to manage your portion size. Always order the smallest drink you can order versus the largest. Most of the time I even ask to do a half size beer (a “half draft”) which is only 8 ounces. You get a good taste of the beer but not as many calories.

By ordering a smaller portion your brain counts it as a drink as much as it does with the bigger drink. If you want more you can order another which forces your brain to count it as a second drink. Plus this will force you to pause and think whether or not you really want a second drink while you wait for your server to ask you.

I know I talked a lot about beer but the same strategy applies to other drinks too. Maybe don’t order the mini pitcher of house margaritas and order the normal size skinny margarita instead. It is usually better for you and made with real juices!

Strategy #2: Proof

Staying on the topic of types of alcohol brings me to the next strategy which is proof. Proof is a measurement of the alcohol content in a drink. The average light beer is around 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) which is 9 proof – always double the alcohol content. Red wine is usually around 12% alcohol (24 proof). Liquor is around 40%-50% alcohol (80 to 100 proof).

Disclaimer: following paragraph is a slight over-simplification but is directionally accurate.

One important fact to keep in mind is that alcohol is essentially sugar. The more alcohol content in a drink the more sugar content which means more calories. So the strength of the alcohol you consume directly translates to more calories. More calories going into your body means that you have to burn more calories or you gain weight.

What does all of this mean? It means that you have to choose your alcoholic drinks very carefully. For example let’s talk about beer again. I previously said that the average light beer has an alcohol content (ABV) of 4.5% or so. This 4.5% ABV beer translates to about 120 calories for 12ounce serving. For comparison sake this is about the same as an ounce and a half of grilled strip steak! It is also roughly the same as a 2 ounce shot of liquor or a 5 ounce glass of red wine.

But all of those are just averages! There are some imperial IPA beers that have an ABV of 9% or more, some more than 15%! One example is a imperial red ale that I really love that comes out every fall. It has an ABV of about 8% and it is delicious! But ordering a pint of this beer will cost you 320 calories! That is about two-thirds of the calories of a very popular fast food burger with its special sauce and all. That is just for one drink and there are far higher ABV beers out there now.

This gets even worse when you look at specialty mixed drinks at restaurants with lots of high proof alcohol and mixers. Some can get up to 1000 calories… for a drink!

So choose wisely when choosing a drink!

Look for lower ABV beers because you know you are going to drink them fast. I usually look for the lowest ABV beers on the menu. Alternatively, sip on wine that is that same calorie content per drink as a light beer but you consume it way slower. Or sip on a bourbon – one of my go-to choices – because you will likely consume it far slower and in small quantities.

Strategy #3: Pairing

Finally is pairing. The alcohol you drink is unhealthy enough but what comes with it could really be the double whammy that really gets you.

When you have a beer what do you have with it? Do you snack on high calorie salty snacks like chips, pretzels or peanuts? Do you order that plate of chicken wings? If you snack on unhealthy foods while drinking you are potentially doubling or tripling the calories from the alcohol alone or worse. The foods that you pair with drinks matter as much or more than the drinking itself.

The problem doesn’t stop there…

When you are drinking alcohol are you mixing it with something? These mixers bring an extra dose of calories and other challenges with them.

Here’s an example: I had a Bloody Mary with my brunch this past weekend and did some math. The vodka in the Bloody Mary was brought a fairly moderately amount of calories at around 125. Then there was Bloody Mary mix which brought an extra 40 calories. But the calories are just the start. The mix also came with almost 1100 milligrams of sodium which is a big torpedo in my 1500 milligrams per day sodium budget.

The strategy that I commonly employ with my pairings is to make sure that I am eating healthy foods when I drink. If I snack I am doing so on low calorie high nutrition foods such as vegetables. Then I try to stick to straight drinks without mixers except on rare occasions.

Finally I try to make sure to ramp up the water intake with my drink. I strive to achieve at least a 1-for-1 consumption of water per drink. If I drink a 12 ounce beer I try to drink at least 12 ounces of water with it. This keeps me from being adversely affected by the natural dehydrating affects of alcohol. The increased water intake also helps work as an appetite suppressant so I don’t hit the snacks.

There you have it, 3 strategies that I have used to make my drinking a little healthier. But, without a doubt, the best strategy is not to drink or not to drink often. If you choose to do so at least make sure that you are taking some steps to mitigate the associated negative health impacts.

Cheers!

Healthy Hack #3: Pay Yourself First

As you may already know if you have been following me, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to escape from my lifelong obesity and to lose over 100 pounds in under a year.

My results significantly exceeded my expectations and I lost 100 pound in 9 months, 120 in the first year and am still going strong – 130+ pounds in 16 months to-date. The pinnacle of my journey so far was completing my first half marathon just 16 months after weighing in at 325 pounds!

Throughout my fitness journey I have been repeatedly asked the same question: what’s your secret?

While there is no true “secret” to successful weight loss there are some techniques that worked well for me. I am going to share these techniques with you through this Healthy Hacks series in the Operation Melt blog.

Please read on because I am confident that these hacks can become the “secret” to your success with your own health & fitness journey.

Pay Yourself First

There is a popular concept in the world of personal finance called “pay yourself first.”

The premise is pretty simple: when you get paid your first priority should be your savings and/or investments before your spend a penny on bills or other mandatory things. This means you have prioritized spending on yourself first and your creditors second and it is a common way to build wealth.

There is a similar concept that I read in a popular finance book that takes a slightly more altruistic approach. When you receive any kind of bonus or other financial windfall your first priority should be giving. The first 10% of any unexpected cash inflow should be donated to charity or other worthy cause.

This latter concept is this week’s healthy hack.

This week I had a bonus day off and a 3-day weekend for Veteran’s Day. I started my bonus day with an investment in myself and my fitness. My first order of business on my bonus day was my workout. I went for a run to my gym. I had a session with my trainer. I ran back home. Before I did anything else with my bonus day I had already had a 1000 calorie workout.

If you pay yourself first with your workout you start your day off with an investment in yourself and your health. It doesn’t take long but is starts your day on the right foot. Then you can go do whatever else you want to do with your day with a feeling of accomplishment.

So, when you get a bonus day off, start it with a workout. By paying yourself first you improve your chances of honoring your commitment to your health. What else is more important for the beginning of your day? This is way more important than sleeping in or lounging on the sofa!

Healthy Hack #2: Use your doctor as your partner

As you may already know if you have been following me, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided to escape from my lifelong obesity and to lose over 100 pounds in under a year.

My results significantly exceeded my expectations and I lost 100 pound in 9 months, 120 in the first year and am still going strong – 130+ pounds in 16 months to-date. The pinnacle of my journey so far was completing my first half marathon just 16 months after weighing in at 325 pounds.

Throughout my fitness journey I have been repeatedly asked the same question: what’s your secret?

While there is no true “secret” to successful weight loss there are some techniques that worked well for me. I am going to share these techniques with you through this Healthy Hacks series in the Operation Melt blog.

Please read on because I am confident that these hacks can become the “secret” to your success with your own health & fitness journey.

Use your doctor as a partner in your journey

We have all heard the advice before: “check with your doctor before starting any diet or fitness program.” It sounds like really good advice but is it just C.Y.A. or is there more to it?

During my journey I learned that my doctor was a great partner. There were 3 ways in particular that I leveraged my relationship with my doctor to help me achieve success in my journey. I would highly recommend that anybody starting a fitness journey work with their doctor. Maybe try to use these same 3 strategies.

Strategy #1: Figure out where you are starting.

When you start a fitness journey you will be tempted to set your goal and get to it. For example if you are trying to lose weight you can easily see your starting weight and know your target weight. But that is just part of the story.

Do you really know where you are starting? Do you know if your blood pressure is high? Do you know if you are starting to show signs of diabetes? Do you know if you have a vitamin deficiency of any kind? These other conditions can be just as or even more important than your starting weight.

By partnering with your doctor you can get a holistic assessment of your health. This assessment will help you determine all of the things you need to work on and how to build a plan to address them all. This assessment is a solid baseline to use for your journey.

Strategy #2: Build the right plan for you.

When you start building a plan for your fitness journey you are looking for 2 key attributes: it is safe and it is effective.

In today’s world you may be tempted to start off by searching the Internet. You go to a web browser and type in “how do I lose weight” and read the first few results. They tell you to create a deficit between the calories you consume and the calories you burn. They give you a calorie target and you are off to the races.

Here’s an important fact to remember: the internet is not a doctor and the general medical advice you find online is not necessarily the right advice for you.

When you are building your plan for your journey it needs to be more tailored to you. If you are creating a calorie deficit it needs to consider your body and daily calorie burn. It needs to consider other health factors. Your exercise routine needs to take into account any medical conditions and your overall health. The list goes on…

If you work with your doctor to build your plan you may be able to avoid injuries and frustration. Your doctor will help you figure out safe calorie targets. Your doctor will also help ensure proper nutrition within those calories. Plus your doctor can help you choose exercises that work for you and prevent overdoing it or getting hurt.

Essentially your doctor can help your plan be both safe and effective.

Strategy #3: Measure progress and adjust

During your journey you should be measuring your progress every day. This includes logging your food and exercise and checking your weight and other key data. You do not need your doctor to help with your daily progress tracking. But this is a longer term journey than your day to day measurements

Throughout your journey you should be visiting your doctor. These visits will be focused on checking on your progress from a more holistic perspective.

Your doctor will not only check your weight but will also check more than that. Is your blood pressure still good? Is your body temperature safe? Have you been experiencing any recurring pains? And the list goes on depending on your specific needs.

Then, based on where you are in your journey, your doctor will help you adjust your plan. For example, are you getting the right amount of protein based on your increased amount of exercise? Should your daily calorie target decrease or are you eating too few calories? Are you at risk for “over training”?

In short you should use your doctor as a partner throughout your journey. By doing so your progress will be safer, more effective and more sustainable. Plus your doctor will also likely be a good cheerleader through your journey and you are going to learn a ton along the way.