I fear that I’m beginning to sound like a business consultant; The plan is to have a plan; Setting honest goals will lead to honest results; Manage your time so that your time does not manage you. The only difference is that the subject is your body and not a business. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the profession, but I feel like an asshole when I make a joke now.
But even though they be grossly general truisms, they still are true (in a kind of gross and general way). Because we are working on creating habits, a feat sometimes akin to crossing the Gobi with only a bag of whistles and a single, dirty tube sock, we have to break down our weight-loss plan to the nth degree as we can’t trust ourselves to remember to do it. So open up your copy of Microsoft Excel because its time to make SCHEDULES! . . . Okay, you can close Excel; we’re not actually making schedules, but you are going to have to start planning your entire day around your workout/diet if you are serious about losing weight.
I know that doesn’t sound like much fun, and it isn’t, but you have to consider how much free time you actually have in the day. On average, I am awake for about 17 hours. With work, transit, shower, and cooking/eating, I am left with about five hours of free time to work with, which is more than enough time to fit in a workout. But this is only the bare bones of my day and doesn’t take into account that life doesn’t give a shit about your schedule. What if there’s traffic? What if you are supposed to go to a movie with friends? What if you get entrapped by the soulless, gaping abyss that is the internet? Any of these things can and will happen at some point, and they all eat away at your remaining time. And even if you are left with an hour or so for freedom, there is no guarantee that you’ll get that time in one solid chunk. There’s a term for people who try to change their lives by flying from the seat of their pants: Bullshitters. You have to have a plan if you are to ensure that you will get the workout done and follow your meal plan. So STAND AND DELIVER!
Did I say cookie? I meant celery stick. Planning your meals isn’t complicated. If you have a hard time remembering to eat, I don’t imagine you would have a weight problem (unless you’re on the ‘Too Skinny’ side of the scale, in which case go back and eat that cookie). Eat five to six meals spaced two to three hours apart, with portions that can fit inside the palms of your hands. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not always, and so you must plan your meals to make sure you don’t eat an unscheduled meal or make your portions too big.
To lose the most weight, you have to look ahead and foresee yourself straying from the diet, and plan accordingly. I don’t want to say that you can’t trust yourself, but the temptation to eat is everywhere. Every time a coworker of mine brings in a slice of pizza for lunch, I want to run to the street to the grocery store to get eight frozen pizzas that I will eat straight from the box right there in the store. And don’t shake your head at me! You will feel the same way when you start your diet. But you can take away as many of the opportunities to slip up as you can by following a few of guidelines:
- Set That Alarm – By setting an alarm to go off every two or three hours, you take away some of the responsibility of keeping track of the time, as well as some of the power to eat before you’re supposed to. If the alarm hasn’t gone off, you’re not allowed to eat. It can also help garner support from those around you, as people will catch on you’re on a diet when you make a mad dash for the refrigerator every time your cell phone goes off.
- Bag That Shit Up – Preparing all the food you eat in the day before hand will keep you from rationalizing a poor lunch decision (e.g. – This lasagna has broccoli and tomatoes in it. I’M PRACTICALLY EATING A GARDEN!), and limit your options. It will also save you a load of money, which you will be able to roll in whenever you are feeling hungry. You’ll still feel hungry, but it’s fun to do.
- Don’t Shop Hungry – “Oh my GAWD! New chicken and beef taquitos! And what is this? Chips that taste like a BLT?! Let’s give that a shot! A years worth of Mac n’ Cheese? WHAT A DEAL!” Sound familiar? Going to the grocery store on a full stomach will keep those impulse buys, not to mention the buyer’s remorse and all the calories that come with it, at bay.
- No Need, No Buy – My fridge has been practically empty for years now. I buy the food items that are in my meal plan, and not much else. This keeps me from splurging in the middle of the night on whatever is in my fridge because, one, I know that if I pig out on what I have, I’ll only be taking away food for my meal tomorrow; and two, who wants to eat a fucking salad at 3 am?!
Another good idea is to keep a food journal.
Stop sticking that baby in my face. Keeping track of every single thing you eat and drink during the day is not so much a planning endeavor as it is a method of changing your outlook. By seeing the reality of what you have consumed over the day, you will begin to realize just how much food you have actually eaten. If you create a good meal plan, your body will have everything it needs to survive, and you can start to focus on why it is you really feel so hungry. Keeping a food log can also help you pinpoint foods that may not be working. You can download a Food Log Template here, and read about some healthy low-cal snacks to battle hunger pangs here.
Who are we kidding? This whole post is mostly about trying to fit in time to exercise. When you get down to it, there are really only four choices of when to work out, and I’ve done them all, so I’ll give you the ups and downs of each.
- Morning. Get your work out done right when you wake up. PROS –You don’t have to worry about fitting it in because you’ll get it done before anything else. Also, nothing wakes you up like sweat. CONS – Waking up an hour early just to exercise can seriously throw your game out of whack, and you will be tired for the entire day for the first month or so. You also run the risk of hitting that SNOOZE button, and sleeping right on through.
- Mid-Day. Instead of going somewhere to eat your lunch and read the paper, take a jog or climb some stairs (if you work in a high rise) on your lunch hour. PROS – You’ll find you have much more energy in the middle of the day, which means you can exercise harder. You can also get outside and breathe in some fresh air if you are forced to sit in front of a computer all day, and win the admiration of your coworkers. CONS– You have to go back to work after, which means you also have to schedule in ample cool down time so you’re not sweating at your desk. This also means bringing a change of clothes and maybe taking a “French Shower” in the bathroom.
- After Work. Hop straight from the office to the gym. PROS – You can travel on the momentum from the ride home to go straight into the work out. It can help you unwind, and also lift up your energy for evening activities. CONS – This is also the time that almost everyone else goes to the gym, and you may find you don’t have the energy to exercise after a long day.
- Evening. Get your blood pumping before jumping into bed. PROS – You have enough time to rest a little and gear up for the activity. You also get a chance to eat dinner for an extra energy boost before starting, and even though it’s a contradiction to an earlier statement, nothing can make you more tired than sweat. CONS – If you workout too close to going to sleep, you can screw up your sleep cycle. You are also at the mercy of life and all of its fucking-plans-up glory.
Also realize that you don’t have to commit a full hour to exercise at first. Twenty minutes three times a week is enough to start with. You also don’t have to work out at a gym or even hit the pavement. Some of my best workouts have been done in my bedroom in a space about 4’ wide by 10’ long with no equipment. What you do have to commit to is planning whatever days you do exercise around the workout. If that means you give up the weekly poker game, or miss out on some television shows (although watching tv while exercising is a good way to pass the time) then so be it. I never said weight-loss is without sacrifice. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying the exact opposite from the beginning.
Understand that time management is a skill. It takes practice, and it’ll be a while before you find the time that works for you. But once you do, you will discover that after awhile you will be scheduling your day around your weight-loss plan not because you need to, but because you want to.