This is not fatblogging, I swear.
The last 3 years have been good to me in a lot of ways, but I have’t been good at taking care of myself. Among my 2010 promises that I made (not so much a resolution, but really a promise) was to take some time to refocus on me.
So far, 2010 has been the year that I wanted it to be. Indy Hall has continued to grow, but also mature. As such, I’ve been able to focus on some other ventures that are fulfilling in many new ways. I’m focused on products again, building both technologies and businesses. I’ve focused on teaching. I’ve focused on writing.
I’ve focused on my mental health. Learned what I cared about. Who I cared about.
I’ve taken time for myself.
I’m relatively healthy considering my aversion towards doctors. I only really get sick once, maybe twice a year.
But my body health – my physical fitness – has deteriorated. Recently, I dared to step onto a scale, to find that I weighed nearly 20 lbs more than the last time I was unhappy with my weight. So with 5 months left in 2010, I’ve committed to getting back under 200 lbs.
Last Monday was the “Geek Fitness” edition of Refresh Philly. I hadn’t been to a Refresh in some time, and this seemed like a topic I should pay some attention to.
I left Refresh with some new perspective on how – and why – I could make this happen. Here’s what I’m up to one week later:
Lose It or Lose It
I don’t think I’ve ever shouted from the hilltops how awesome Randy Schmidt is, which is a damn shame. I’ve actually known Randy since college, though we didn’t really get to know each other until the early Indy Hall days. Apart from being one of Indy Hall’s longest standing members (Randy’s participation and support dates back to the “Cream Cheese Sessions” of 2007), but he’s also one of my favorite success stories of complete career reorientation within the Indy Hall community.
But that story’s for another day.
Randy’s a problem solver. Lose It or Lose It was his solution to his own problem – his inability to stay motivated through losing weight. He found a pretty fascinating combination of reminders and the association of money to goals that’s not purely incentive based. Quickly, here’s how it works.
- You choose a 10 week plan – 1, 2, or 3 lbs per week
- You pony up an uncomfortable amount of your own money
- Lose It or Lose It combines accountability friends, daily SMS or email reminders to you and your accountability friends), and weekly required weigh-ins to keep you on track
- Each week you’re required to weigh in on the same day. Each time you miss your weigh in for any reason, you lose 10% of the money you put up at the beginning. If you weigh in but miss your weight goal, you lose 5%. If you weigh in successfully, you lose nothing!
- At the end of 10 weeks, any money not lost in the weekly weigh-ins is returned, in full, including the paypal transaction fees.
There’s some neat things working here:
A set schedule with an attainable goal
When I business coach, one of the most common lessons I teach is to set realistic goals. There’s more value in setting goals that you can achieve than just achieving them, there’s also the emotional momentum of successfully achieving a goal. LIOLI gives you a reasonable schedule with a fixed end point, along with a realistic goal – just a couple of pounds per week – to set help you up for successive wins and keep you motivated.
Randy’s Refresh presentation was actually more about how LIOLI takes on the human accountability factor that normally undermines diet partners. Unlike the person you’ve asked to keep you on track, the website is relentless and uncaring. Mostly because it, itself, isn’t trying to lose weight. But rather than remove the human element COMPLETELY, it stacks the automated (but friendly and often funny) reminders up against those human accountability friends as well…in fact it urges them to keep you on track. That’s right, your friend gets reminders to remind you to keep working at your goal.
I waited a long time to sign up for LIOLI because I had basically convinced myself that I’m not motivated by money. Then, after hearing Randy talk about it, I realized that LIOLI doesn’t motivate you with money, it helps you use your own money as a bargaining chip. That is, when you’re bargaining with yourself.
The trick to LIOLI is to put up an uncomfortable amount of money. Not an amount of money that risks you losing your home, or putting your life at risk. But an amount that you’d certainly prefer not to part with. And what you really need to consider is that the total amount isn’t the important part – but instead, the 5-10% amounts you risk to lose each week.
Basically, each week becomes it’s own mini-game. The amount at risk each week needs to be enough to force you to think, “is this decision, which is likely to hurt my chances of weighing in at my goal, worth $x?”
So I put up $1000 to lose 2lbs per week, or 20 lbs. That made each week worth $100, and each time I slipped on my weigh in target, I had $50 at stake. That’s enough to make me think “that burger’s not worth $50”. Or “I don’t need to spend $50 to have another beer”. Or “I could skip my run/ride, but that could cost me $50”.
I’m lucky to be at a point in my life and career where $50 isn’t going to break me, but its still enough money to make me associate my decisions with a value. If the outcome of decision doesn’t match the value, it’s an easy decision to make.
I’m not winning $1000 at the end of my 10 weeks. I’m using money as a bargaining tool with myself to help me make better decisions. It was my money to begin with, after all.
So, does it work?
Well, over 1000 lbs have been lost by LIOLI users. Almost 70 of those lbs were Randy’s. And by years end, I’m hoping that at least 40 more will be mine. I’m already ahead of schedule, but they say the first few weeks are the easiest.
I’m stating the obvious, but it’s not really something I’ve ever made a conscious effort to do. Luckily, it is an easy change, because based on the fact that I eat out almost every meal, all I needed to do was remove a few things completely from my eating options and add a few new ones.
I’m using an iPhone app called Lose It to enter my exercise and estimate my calorie intake. Not knowing how poorly I ate before makes measuring the differential tough, but simply paying attention to what I’m eating is already making a huge difference. If something I’m thinking about eating is worse for me than I realized, I go into the self-negotiating mode for LIOLI. That’s not to say I can’t eat anything I want, but I know what the outcome could be based on my decision.
A trip to the farmers market on Sunday to pick up some fruit for snacks, and another trip to Whole Foods for some easy-prep meals that aren’t full of crap means I can still eat well without sacrificing too much convenience, simply by knowing that my options are better than the ones I was giving myself before.
Much like LIOLI’s weekly required checkpoints, using Lose It on my iPhone is helping me learn my eating patterns so I can make smarter decisions about what and where I eat.
Honestly, I’ve never been one to exercise. It’s never appealed to me. Getting sweaty, grunting, being in pain? Lame. I’m also not motivated by team sports, so I’ve never been much of an athlete. So something had to change.
Knowing full well that diet changes alone weren’t going to lose me 2 lbs a week, I picked a few variations to compile an exercise routine that I could manage to keep up with.
I was honestly motivated by the Refresh talks about running, so much that I convinced myself that I could do it too! Unfortunately I was quickly reminded how hard it is on my flat feet, and that it probably wasn’t the most sustainable way for me to maintain a daily workout schedule. That said, I found the Couch to 5k program approachable, and something I’m still going to try to work through.
I’m not really interested in actually running the 5k, but I like the program from the perspective that it assumes that I’ve never run before, and starts there. The first weeks runs are actually over 50% walking. But I’m still out for 30+ minutes, sweating, and “feeling the burn”. The part that sucks is later in the day when my ankles are wobbly and sore. If I can’t recover by the next time I’m planning on running, I’ve undermined my whole plan.
There’s a sweet C25k iPhone app, though, that gives you audio cues when to switch your running and walking, and it even lets you play iTunes or Pandora in the background. If you ARE a runner and want to train up to a 5k (or a 10k), there’s an app for that (10k version).
15 miles to 30 Rock
Since running isn’t a daily option (and I decided to start this whole routine in August of one of the hottest summers in Philadelphia’s recorded history), I’ve decided that going to the gym and using some cardio equipment is completely acceptable.
Treadmills give me the same problems as running outside, except it’s boring. So I took a spin on one of the stationary bikes. A few things I really like about the bike:
- I’m not on my feet. My arches thank me.
- Milage motivation – being able to ride 15 miles in the same amount of time I can barely run 2 miles is just more motivating to me.
- I don’t feel the need to stop. Unlike running, where I need to stop because my ankles hurt, I can power through a consistent 40 minute ride even up the virtual “hills” the training program provides.
- I can watch 30 Rock
That last one’s a little weird, but I was reading about workout routines and saw someone who stopped letting themselves watch certain shows except for when they were working out. Earlier this summer I decided to catch up on 30 Rock, which I’d never seen but heard was really funny. Season 1 had me hooked.
Before I could buy Season 2, Hulu sent me an invite for Hulu Plus. This gave me full access to their catalogue (which happens to include all seasons of 30 rock), but it also lets me watch them on my iPhone/iPad.
So I promised myself that I’d get through 30 rock, 2 episodes at a time, but ONLY while I’m on an exercise bike.
Those 40 minutes whiz by. It’s like taking a 10-15 mile bike ride with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin every morning. It’s awesome.
And when I’m done with 30 Rock, I can pick another series I’ve been meaning to catch up on…I can even up the ante to 30 minute shows, and documentaries. Who said exercise equipment had to be boring!!
P.S. The music they play at my Gym is so bad. SO bad.
A social network for working out. Not only did it seem counter-intuitive (social networks are places to sink time sitting on your duff, not being active), but it sounded awful. I imagined a virtual locker room full of athletes, slapping each others’ asses and shouting lame motivational chants at each other.
But Daily Mile turned out to be something else altogether. In fact, its kinda like having workout buddies without having to smell them. You can pick up tips (and even exercise routes) from other people that live near you. The amazing part to me was how many people I knew who were already on it. People I knew from Indy Hall, or just the general geek scene in Philly. I was welcomed warmly as I began to log my workout progress. In just a week, seeing miles rack up from runs and rides is pretty cool. I’ve embedded a Daily Mile widget in my blog sidebar too, more for tracking those miles than anything else.
Other relative stats, like “donuts burned” and “times around the world” are pretty exciting…while the numbers are low now they are the ones I’m kinda excited to see climb.
Thanks to all of my friends, especially Roz Duffy and Randy Schmidt, for the encouragement, support, and inspiration to cap off my year of refocusing on me in a really important and positive way.