Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another summer of depravity survived

I just got back from vacation to a hurricane (actually, not metaphorically).

Vacation was great and totally helpful.  Life is crazy, and sometimes I need to force myself to sit still for a period of time and get needed rest and thinking time.  I find it much easier to think about the long view when I'm not running through the rapid-fire paces of regular life.  

From a health and wellness perspective, here is how the vacation went...
  • Breakfast:  good.  On plan.
  • Exercise:  hit the local gym and got in some good miles on my bike.  I also managed to get in about an hour of walking just about every day.  
  • Lunch:  surprisingly good.  I ate at the house or packed a lunch most days.  I had lots of fruit around, so I never felt the need to pack a bag of chips.  
  • Snacking:  well...  too much dip makes Dave a weak-willed boy.  There was some minor binging here.
  • Dinner:  not terrible.  
  • Dessert:  I was definitely a little weak-willed here as well.  
Interestingly, I kept feeling like I was being terribly gross and slothful.  Yet everything I went back over the day, I realized that I was actually making pretty decent choices.  I find it interesting that when it comes to my own self-appraisal, I'm guilty until proven innocent.  

We got in Friday night to the threat of impending doom in the form of some ill-tempered woman named Irene.  She was a very unpleasant sort, spewing rain, wind and calamity everywhere she went.  She came and went.  My little town in CT was hit fairly hard as was the case with much of my state.  Lots of flooding (I'm on the coast) and seemingly infinite power outages.  More than half of CT was without power by Sunday night, a sad, new record.  Over the weekend's ravages, I found myself performing day-in-and-out of manual labor, slugging around bags of sand, hauling big, dead branches and shifting around lots of outdoor furniture.  [Sadly, I couldn't help but think about all the Activity Points I was picking up.]  We made it through in one piece, un-flooded and still with power (we were among the lucky 30% in our town).  

Now the weather is strangely beautiful and I'm back in the office.  It's fall!  Well, technically, it's still Summer, but it's Fall to me.  I always see this as a great time of year to really get back into a good routine and focus on Program adherence.  Summer always deals a minor weight gain, and this one is no exception.  Getting back on routine is a great way to nip it in the bud.  I'm off to a good start, and I hit the gym Monday and Tuesday morning with a furious vengeance.  I'm also throttling back mindless snacking, which is a feat made easier by being a lot more busy.

Adding more to this post for the first entry yesterday (Tuesday):  I'm now on day three, post vacation and post-hurricane (it's Wednesday).  As noted, I always feel like my vacation/summer time feels a little out-of-control and overly mindless.  I have to say that it really does feel better to be back in the flow of things.  Indulgences are down significantly, exercise is up, and frankly I'm feeling great.  I sometimes forget how good it feels, physically and emotionally, to be fully back on plan.  I'm liking it!  

All-in-all, it's good to be back!

How was your summer?



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ye olde healthy vacation check list

This has not been a pretty summer.  I have been working like a crazy person from the first thaw of Winter's snow.  Tons of travel and lots of work has clearly made Dave a dull boy.  At minimum, it has made staying on program something of a challenge, particularly the travel bit.  This course of events has not been desirable.  I normally count on building up a big reservoir of healthy living chits before I head off toward vacation.  Right now, my healthy bank account is pretty much empty -- though at least I'm not in a debtor position.

I'm REALLY hoping my beach isn't this crowded.
Not a good frolicking scene..
As of Friday morning, I'm on vacation for two weeks.  To be completely clear, this fact is beyond awesome.  I need the rest, and I need to get in a giant heap of quality time with my dear, understanding wife and kids.  Yet, I feel the inevitable ominous feeling of going into wild nutritional waters, replete with fried seafood, ice cream and beer.  I'm also slightly stressed about the fact that I have to get the family car packed and ready to roll early Friday morning.

How should I handle all of the stress, fear, uncertainty and doubt?  Get a plan!

I already started my packing plan by building up an impressive spreadsheet with every item I could possibly need, including lint.  It's a little anally retentive, but I hate that feeling of driving off toward the destination with the nagging feeling that I've forgotten something.  A nice plan and a nicer list is a very nice way of proactively dealing with this.

My approach to my healthy living survival stress for the next two weeks follows the same basic theme:  have a plan.  So here it goes:

Exercise (this one is pretty easy):

  • Find a local gym that will sell me a two week pass.  Done!
  • Bring my bike.  Will be done!  
  • Take advantage of the fact that I naturally wake up at silly hours of the morning and get workout in before family arises.  No problem.  I live my life this way.
  • Put in serious walking time on the beach.  No hardship here.
  • Frolic in the waves with my kids.  Sold.  
Food (more challenging):  
  • Grocery shop as soon as I get to the rental house.  Arm the house with healthy snacks, fruits, etc.
  • Stick to my oatmeal/fruit/Greek yogurt breakfast routine.  
  • Pack lunch from the kitchen (not the sandwich shop) when possible.  Avoid buying big bags of chips.  Getting individual packs instead so I can avoid mindless beach grazing.  
  • For dinners, we are planning on cooking and grilling many of the nights we are there.  That's always a good environment for good choices.  We will also definitely be hitting some dinners out, and that's OK.  My standard guideline for vacations is to loosen up a bit for dinner and not be too obsessive (not easy for me).  
My brain (the most challenging):
  • Challenge my vacation paradigms.  Why shouldn't I imagine vacation as a time in which I don't gain a single pound?  Why does it have to be a binging splurge?  Why should I feel the need to get nervous about the notion that I will somehow turn into a garbage eating beach freak?  
  • My strategy is therefore to take a deep breath and imagine myself sitting on the beach, feeling healthy and balanced not gross and bloated.  Mental rehearsing they call this.  
Of course, there is always the stop-gap measure of taunting a shark and then letting it chase me to squeeze in a few extra Activity Points.  

I may blog from the beach, but not promises!  



Monday, August 1, 2011

Fitness over food. Doing stuff vs. not doing stuff.

New trip, same story (but perhaps a new insight)...

I returned home on Thursday night after a week long trip to China.  2011 has proven to be a tough travel year with (so far) three Asia trips, multiple Europe trips and I don't know-how-many domestic trips under my belt.  I feel like every time I get back from a trip, I say the same thing:  "I was good about exercise, but not always so good about food choices."  How did this trip compare?  Remarkably similar!  It's almost as though there is a pattern at play here!  I'm feeling like quite the detective.

So how did it go?

On the exercise front...

Bless me, I'm disciplined!  I almost wrenched my arm cleanly out of its socket patting myself on the back after all my exercise this past week.  I arrived in China on Monday night after a 15 hour flight.  I somehow managed to get some (maybe four hours) sleep, and I was ready to roll the second the gym opened at 6 AM.  I lifted weights for an hour and then headed over the exercise bike for 30 minutes of additional cardio.  I did the same thing on Wednesday morning.  By Thursday morning, I had already finished my four day weight split for the week, so I was in cardio-only mode.  I cranked in another 45 minutes of reasonably intense action on the bike.  I arrived back home Thursday night, and I was back in the gym again for more cardio on Friday morning.  I even made myself workout again on Sunday even though I was feeling kind of sick.  It was truly a display of sheer willpower.

Or was it?  In truth, I was waking up on my own in China around 3 to 4 AM each day due to heinous internal clock issues.  What else was I going to do at 6 AM?  I had already done a ton of work, email, calls from my room, and I didn't feel like watching yet more CNN.  It was easy to make the decision to jam in a workout because simply stated, that's just what I do these days.  It's pretty automatic.

On the food front...   

Typically spotty food behavior reigned once again.  I tried to be good at the breakfast buffet and choose healthy stuff (on balance, I may have had a bit too much healthy stuff).  I was pretty solid on my choices during the day because I was too busy to be bad.  Dinners degraded a little bit, but I guess they could have been worse.  However, what's up with the Budweiser & Snickers mini-bar routine right before bed time?  Very NASCAR of me.

Some other lucky person's airplane meal.
Is this worthy of Clean Plate club status?
Airplanes are, as always, a completely different and altogether worse story.  The only way to get to Shanghai from JFK non-stop is via China Eastern.  It's a relatively newer airline that was spun off of the Chinese national airline.  I give them credit for flying a fairly new aircraft on their NY route, so the seats aren't bad.  I cannot, however, give them much credit yet for the quality of their cuisine.  The food wasn't still moving when I ate it, but it was several thousand miles away from being haute cuisine.  Yet I ate it all.  Everything.  Every crumb.  Pieces of the serving tray.

Therein lies the story of my life.  Mindless grazing after meals and gorging on aircraft.  How many times have I decried my own inadequacies in these situations with bold promises to fix them?  Right now, my best solution is to never fly again and to eliminate all snack food from existence.  This would obviously be a great plan except for its divergence from reality -- unless I flee society and open up a small shack somewhere in the mountains of Montana.

All of this got me thinking?  Why so good about exercise and yet still so stumped about food?

My latest theory!  I'm wired to do stuff.  I have a hard time not doing stuff.  Huh?  It's easy for me to get a spark of motivation or a whiff of impulse to jump off the couch and go do some exercise.  I've got lots of nervous energy, so this feels like the most natural action in the world.  Exercise and I were made for each other.  True love!

I have a much more complicated relationship with food.  If it is on a well-worn habit tread, like breakfast or lunch, I can nicely make the proactive decision to order up something healthy.  A good breakfast is no longer a decision, it's merely something I do by habit.  However, not snacking requires not doing something.  Not eating wholly unappealing food on an airplane requires saying "no thank you!" and then watching someone else eat it.  It requires not doing something.  As I said, I have a lot of nervous energy, so not doing something does not come naturally.

I guess I am the human embodiment of entropy.  This works well for exercise but not so well for food restraint.

This got me thinking even more.  What if not doing something, like mindless eating, could be reframed into doing something?  How can I make the act of not acting on a food impulse an actual action?  I'm starting to wonder if I should identify these not-so-healthy habits and create some kind of tracking mechanism that allows me to get credit for not falling prey to them.  I'm not sure how this is going to work, but I'm going to give it a try.

Does anyone else relate to this, and if so, what's worked for you?