Use Your Noodle to Transform Yourself

author : bflrich
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There will always be something else to do, your goal is to find a time when there usually isn't something better to do.

“I don’t have time to eat like that.”
“I’m too busy to cook.”
"I HAD to get fast food."

What's your excuse? I hear these and others like them so often it makes me cringe. Most everyone has the sense to realize by now that what they eat has a direct impact on their body, both in how it looks and how it functions. Most people also know what they should be doing to look and feel better, but they don't do it for a myriad of excuses.

'Diets' are Fantasies
That's right, most people know what to eat and know that they should exercise. Forget Atkins and South Beach, and also the Cabbage Soup diet; those are fantasies and people know it. They’re shortcuts that, on one hand, people wish would work and, on the other hand, secretly hope don't. People hope they don’t so they have somewhere to place blame for their failure besides themselves, while simultaneously continuing their unhealthy, albeit delicious, lifestyle.

You don't need to a personal trainer to realize that pizza and fried chicken are crappy for you and chicken breast isn't. You don't need AHH-NOLD to give a speech to know that it's better to take a walk than sit on your rump watching Joe Millionaire. Is it easy to do what needs to be done? Nope. Is it always fun? Nope. Does it take some discipline and planning? Yep. The discipline is another article entirely, but the planning part is what we'll talk about here.

OK, so you work, have kids, take out the garbage, clean gutters, sometimes even shower and cut your toenails, right? Who has time to eat healthy and workout? This isn't some Mediterranean village where we spend all day picking fresh veggies and chasing chickens around for our meals. We have things to do. How do we live life AND do what's necessary to keep healthy and fit? Well, we do it...somehow.

That's the first change. Maybe your only time to work out is in the morning when you're dog tired and the sun is barely out. What do you want more—sleep or an awesome body? Perhaps you decide you'd rather work out after work. Will picking up the dry cleaning or dinner or watching television be more important to you at that time? Well, there's always lunchtime. Can you sneak in a quick but intense workout during that hour? Would you rather relax over a mocha-frappa-chinno-double-latte-skim-thing? You have to find a time when you can usually place your workout above everything else.

There will always be something else to do; your goal is to find a time when there usually isn't something better to do. From talking to a lot of people, I discovered that the successful ones tended to work out in the morning. After a couple weeks of dragging yourself out of bed and sleepwalking through your workout, you’ll get more and more used to it and it will start to invigorate you and set the tone for the day. Most importantly, it’ll be done. You won’t have to think about it, things don’t get in the way as often when it’s early, and you’ll have time to watch Desperate Housewives in the evening without guilt. You can be successful scheduling your workout any time you wish (mine is lunchtime), but all things being equal morning workouts eliminate a lot of excuses.

You've heard it before, "fail to plan, plan to fail." It's true. There's no way most of us can get everything accomplished we want and still end up cooking an elaborate healthy meal every night. Not that a healthy meal has to be elaborate, but if I'm going to make one of my staple meals, grilled chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, here's what has to be done:

1) Heat grill.
2) Weigh and trim chicken, season as desired.
3) Measure out and cook rice.
4) Wash, chop, and steam broccoli.
5) Cook chicken
6) Wash dishes, rice pot, steamer, clean grill.

Now if I tried to do all that every night I'd never do it consistently. I'd get a large pizza too and watch Everybody Loves Raymond with my feet up. There's no way around the process of cooking the food, but you can alleviate the repetitiveness by doing a big batch of it once a week. Now before you run out to the store, there's more preparation before we get that far.

Did you make a grocery list?
You should. It'll make sure you get what you need and not as much that you don't. What do you base that list off you ask? Well, you base it off your other list of planned meals. Plan, plan, plan. I know on Sunday what my third meal on Thursday will be; so should you. At the very least, know a couple days ahead and cook a few times a week instead of every day. It's best to use some nutritional software to develop your meals and determine your needs, but it can also be done with a calorie counter book and a calculator. What those meals should include specifically and in what proportions are another article, but for now lets just say you want a lean protein, carb, and vegetable.

Here's what I do
Let's say I'm planning my meals I’m going to bring to work for the week. I'm going to have my chicken meal outlined above for all my lunches and I'm going to have salmon twice and flank steak three times for dinners. I know from my list of meal choices that I'm allowed four ounces of chicken per portion, 4 ounces of salmon, and three ounces of flank steak. That means I need to buy 20 ounces of chicken, half a pound of salmon, and 6 ounces of steak. Didn't know there'd be math, huh? I need brown rice too—let's say I eat that for every lunch and dinner. That means I need 10 cups of rice, assuming my portion is half a cup per serving. I don't measure veggies. Just steam up a bunch and throw a handful into each portion. Once everything is cooked up, you can be content knowing you have your healthy food all prepared for the week and are excuse-free. You can then take it a step further and portion things out into Tupperware. You can even make some extra portions and freeze them so if you're in a pinch you can just reach in the freezer, toss a meal into the microwave and stick to your plan.

The beer cooler
Now dust off the cooler you used to carry your Old Milwaukee to the beach. When you're going to be out and about, bring your planned meals along with you. You don't need to cart around a whole bunch of stuff, but some string cheese, fruit, and maybe some protein powder should carry you through till your next meal. Try to rely on others as little as possible when it comes to mealtime; they're just too untrustworthy. When you're done making your chicken, broccoli, and rice as mentioned above, you know exactly what's in it. When you get the same dish at a restaurant, you don't know how much butter was used in the rice, whether the chicken was basted with oil, and whether the cook washed his hands after he used the can. Don't think about it, bring your own.

Make it easy on yourself
The third rule. Making it easy on yourself sometimes costs a little more, as do most convenient things, but it's worth it. You could join the run-down-crappy-gym across town and never go to it, or spend some more dough and use the nice one with the shiny dumbbells and 1000 treadmills that’s across from your office. Is it worth the extra money? Only you can answer that, and I'm not saying you can't get a great workout or build a killer body with old rusty weights. What I'm saying is that if you make arrangements that are inconvenient, you're less likely to take advantage of them. A gym membership not used is of no value at all, regardless of how cheap it was. Having excess weight and high blood pressure is not offset by the value of the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for $3.95. Go get a couple of chicken sandwiches when in a pinch and throw out half the bread if you need to; don’t worry about the extra 3 bucks and wasted bread.

Flog yourself on poor planning for forgetting your cooler and not planning well enough, but don’t sweat saving 3 dollars at the expense of your health. Just make the lousy meal your 20% (more on that in a minute). I think it's a good idea to have twice as many toiletries as you need and have half at home and leave half in your gym bag. It’s one less thing you have to worry about packing, because they're always there. Now you won't miss a workout because you forgot to pack your AquaNet that morning. Buy two pairs of gym shoes and have a pair under your desk at work like I do, and the other at home for your weekend workouts. Now all you have to pack is socks, shorts, and a tee shirt every day. Easy, huh?

Accept 80%
I know, I know, you've always been told to "give it all you've got" and "give 110%." I'm here to tell you that 110% usually isn't required—80% will get you close enough. Professional bodybuilders and Olympic athletes need to give 110% because they are striving for fractions of a second and trying to get to 3% body fat. Chances are, when you're trying to change your body, the stakes aren't as great. Relax. Breathe. You can have pizza. You can have a hot dog...hell, have two. That's your 20%, do what you want with it within reason. But that other 80% of the time, it's veggies and lean meats, people. You can blow off your workout 20% of the time and still make great gains. The 20% rule also prevents people from throwing their hands up and giving up at the first slip-up. If you mess up, call it your 20% and keep going. Like Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never quit.”

A couple of caveats
80% is still pretty high, and if you're not striving to reach it, you're probably more like 60%. 80% isn't a double scoop of Rocky Road and pizza for dinner 4 nights a week—probably more like once or maybe twice. The 80% rule also may not get you exactly what you want down the road. If you want to run a sub-6 minute mile, have great abs or some other phenomenal feat, you may have to do 85 -90% to get you all the way there. But 80% is sufficient to change most people’s lives.

So that’s that. Follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll be able to achieve the vast majority of your health and fitness goals with a minimal amount of pain. If you use your noodle in making healthy food choices, pay attention to your priorities, make it easy on yourself and settle for 80%, you’ll get there. You don’t need to invest a lot of time and effort looking for the elusive “A-Ha!” in books and checkout counter magazines that will transform your body. It’s simple, but not always easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

By Rich Butkevic
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date: April 17, 2005