My fitness goals are off track. Now what?

I’m off track. Not completely off track, but I am:

  • Not exercising the way I want to
  • Gaining fat beyond my acceptable limit

I’m still maintaining a vegan-plus-eggs diet, but I injured my shoulder about a year ago, and after many months of trying to work through it, I finally figured out it was time to take time off from my workouts to let the thing heal, before I mess it up forever (if I haven’t already).

That decision to rest, though, came after I’d already put on quite a few pounds around my gut, so it’s not as if I became fat while sedentary. I was still working out. Unfortunately, my weight is now back to where it was before I started P90X in February, 2010, and I have to say I am dumbfounded by this set of circumstances.

I had believed that diet was everything, but my diet was still good and I had gained the weight. Obviously there are other factors in play inside my body.

What is it, then? My increasing age? That surely has something to do with it. It seems natural to get fatter as we get older. Whether it’s because we become more sedentary or our testosterone levels diminish or it’s just in our genes, there must be something natural about older people being fatter, because that is pretty much the case in the world I observe every day — in general, old people are fatter than young people.

That doesn’t mean that my increased fat is not weighing on me psychologically. In fact, I am extremely disappointed by it. Almost despondent, in fact. I’m not kidding — this is outright depressing.

However, I have decided, after a few months of analyzing the situation, to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to basics.

Exercise? Walking. Lots of walking, back to circling the kitchen island while watching tv during breaks from work. I have an app on my phone that measures how many steps I’ve taken, so I keep my phone with me most of the time now.

Diet? No big change there, because I think I’m on the right track, but I want to get more back to whole foods, so I’ll focus on that.

I am also doing something that I think would be against doctor’s orders, and that is adding more caffeine, mostly coffee. I feel as if I need it, so I’m going up to a max of three cups a day.

I’m not sure what is going on with my 50+ year old body right now, but I know I’m not going down without a fight.

One thing I’ll say here is that my back feels great, better than it has in years! So there’s that….

Dandelion root tea instead of coffee?

Traditional Medicinal Roasted Dandelion Root TeaTraditional Medicinals.

It’s a brand name, but it’s also a cool phrase to describe drinking health-inducing tea, because, yes, our diet should be the first place we look when we suffer from a chronic illness.

Let’s face it. Our medical professionals do a great job when dealing with acute trauma, like a broken arm or an accidental knife through the hand (don’t ask…).

However, when it comes to treating us for things like high cholesterol or hypertension or type 2 diabetes, well, doctors tend to reach for a drug from one of their pharmaceutical partners and be done with it. Sure, they may pay some lip service to “you should really eat better and get some exercise”, but then they write the scrip, and the patient’s human nature takes over.

That thesis is pretty much the overarching theme of this website. We must take control of our own health and fitness, and we should start with our diet.

So, I’m not going to harp much more on that here.

What I really want to say is that I have recently rediscovered roasted dandelion root tea. I say “rediscovered” because I’d bought it last year and tried it a couple times in the evening. I didn’t really care for it.

Recently, though, I did this cleanse thing, and it prescribed a cup of this tea in the morning. In that context, I found roasted dandelion root tea very enjoyable.

I suppose I could focus on the health benefits of the tea. Livestrong tells us how dandelion root tea can help keep the kidneys and bladder flushed and healthy, and also how it may help increase healthy digestive tract bacteria. The box says something about healthy liver function, but I don’t know anything about that.

Here’s what I do know about Roasted Dandelion Root tea: It is a suitable substitute for coffee.

BLASPHEMY!

Well, that’s what I would have said to anyone who dared offer up something as a suitable substitute for coffee. After all, coffee is one of my food groups. It’s a necessary nutrient in my diet.

And I’m not talking about that adulterated junk some drink and call “coffee”. Coffee with anything added to it is no longer coffee. It’s a completely different beverage.

Black, unsweet coffee, which is what I drink, is the nectar of the gods, so for me to proffer something as a substitute for coffee, well, that’s a pretty big step. But I’m taking it.

I still love coffee. What I don’t love is caffeine headaches when I don’t get it, and that is what prompted me to try alternatives.

You may ask, “Why don’t you drink decaf, Steve?” While I have found a decaf or two that taste pretty good, nothing really matches the flavor of real coffee for me. Plus, drinking decaf does nothing to deter the desire for real coffee, right? Kinda like fake sweeteners do nothing to deter the desire for real sugar. But that’s another discussion for another time….

Also, let me make this perfectly clear: roasted dandelion root tea does not taste like coffee. I am not saying it does, because it doesn’t.

However, once I realized that drinking it took away my desire for coffee, I explored its flavors. There’s is obviously a roasted element there, and dandelion root tea also has the slightly bitter hint that is always present in a great cup of coffee. I don’t know if the flavor profile is the reason dandelion root tea satisfies me, but that seems like a logical conclusion.

Anyway, if you are looking for a way to break the coffee habit, maybe try roasted dandelion root tea. Works for me.

And, please, let me clarify: I am not giving up coffee. I love the stuff. But a single-shot americano once a day — maximum — is an amount that works for me. Supplement that with some tea, and I’m good to go!

 

Are you on the later-when-I-have-more-time fitness plan?

Nobody has any extra time these days.

We go from one job to the next, we work with volunteer organizations, we take college courses, we attend luncheons and birthday parties.

Oh, and if we have children — I really don’t know how people with kids do it — we have all the activities related to them.

Not only that, but all these cool electronic devices we have — you know, the ones that are designed to make us more efficient — have kept us so connected that we barely have time to finish one conversation before starting another.

Hell, last night I was carrying on three conversations at once — one via Facebook chat, one via Google chat, and one via text. And I just wanted to relax!

So, yeah, even our free time is taken up with activities that weren’t possible 15 years ago, and that leaves us with less free time than ever.

What can we do about fitness, then?  We know we should get into shape, but we promise ourselves we’ll do it later. You know, when the kids are grown and out of the house. When we can finally quit that second job. When our favorite tv shows go on summer hiatus.

We are busy. How can we possibly squeeze a workout into our daily routine? This is a dilemma.

I hear some people say, “Just get up earlier,” but these people are often the amateur coaches whose idea of a motivational speech is screaming “YOU GOT THIS!” Hey, come on, we can only get up so early. Trying to get into shape on only 4 hours of sleep every night is not going to work for the vast majority of us, and, anyway, there is evidence that lack of sleep makes us fatter.

We could work out shorter. After all, even a daily 10-minute workout can help improve our health.  But there are surely psychological barriers to this, because, really? 10 minutes? And while it might improve our health, it’s not going to improve it nearly as much as a longer workout, so we may just think, “Why bother?”

Ultimately, how to fit a workout into our busy day comes down to the applying the same method we use to fit other activities into our busy day: prioritization.

If we don’t fit exercise into our day, it’s simply because we don’t put enough priority on it. If we prioritized exercise higher than watching tv or going to a movie or working late — all of which may, indeed, deserve higher priority in your life — then we’d skip the tv, movie, and work, in order to get our workout in.

I remember my first post-superfat exercise program. It was walking. Simply walking. Not much of an exercise, to be sure, but at least it was something. I had a pedometer and tried to get 15,000 or 20,000 steps in every day. I have a sedentary job, so I had to devote a lot of time to walking. And I did! Most days I was walking for several hours.

The point is that I did have other things I wanted or needed to do, but I prioritized my walking. Hitting that goal number of steps was important to me, so spending the time to get it done was a priority.

That went on for quite some time, but, as you might expect, I didn’t see a lot of results from walking. And then I got busy at work. I could no longer walk for so many hours. I had to find a way to fit exercise into a shorter amount of time. That’s when I started P90X, which takes only about an hour a day, and that’s when my life changed.

Sure, you can be on a later-when-I-have-more-time fitness plan. But the fact is that for most people “later” never gets here. There will always be activities to fill our time.

So, if we don’t make time for fitness now,  give it the same priority we give to eating and sleeping, then it’s difficult to add it later, because our bodies deteriorate to the point where exercise is almost impossible.

I would encourage you to make “later” today, and start exercising now. Even if it’s just buying a pedometer and counting steps, you never know where those steps might lead you.

You Can’t Change Yesterday

It seems as if so many of us spend a lot of time thinking about the past. We dwell regretfully on missed opportunities. We reminisce and wonder how things “might have been”. We sometimes bask in the glow of bygone successes — which wreaks its own brand of psychological havoc — but most of us, I think, are more like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, wondering how things might have been … if only….

Uncle RicoThe majority of that reminiscing is wasted time, I believe, but I’ll admit that looking back at the past can be constructive.

You’ve probably heard some version of George Santayana‘s “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering my own history sure does keep me motivated not to repeat it.

  • I never want to drink like that again.
  • I never want to eat like that again.
  • I never want to sit around doing nothing like that again.

I have no regrets, though, for the stupid things I’ve done. I consider regrets to be silly and yet one more waste of time. Why?

YOU CAN”T CHANGE YESTERDAY.

(Not yet, anyway. Scientists are working on this issue as we speak. If they are still funded, that is….)

I just don’t believe in giving more than a cannot-be-helped passing thought to things I wish I’d done. That kind of thinking is not productive.

  • What if I’d never had that first cigarette?
  • What if I’d stayed in the Air Force 10 more years?
  • What if I’d bought Apple at $20/share back when they were sitting on $14/share in cash?

Every decision I’ve made — good or bad — has helped shape my life, and has, in fact, set my life on a course that is necessarily quite different than the road not taken.

After all, if I’d never let myself get fat, would I have ever been encouraged to get fit?

Speaking of that, somebody asked me the other day what keeps me motivated to stay on course with fitness and healthy eating, and I said, without hesitation, “I can’t go back to what I was.”

So, no, we can’t change yesterday. But we can change today. That’s all we can hope to do, for now, so what’s stopping you?

Fitness? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

You may have seen the viral video from a while back that featured the phrase “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” If not, it’s below.

[youtube=Nh7UgAprdpM]

It’s true. There are things that we don’t have time for, and when it comes to fitness and nutrition, we have to make decisions about how to prioritize our life’s agenda items every day.

What’s more important?

  • Spending time with my son OR working out?
  • Being polite and eating Aunt Martha’s famous chocolate cake OR staying away from sugar?
  • Reading the book I am currently into OR doing yoga?
  • Eating the same thing as my family OR eating what I know is better for me?
  • Spending time preparing fresh food OR eating processed food

There are plenty more examples, but you get the idea.

So, then, how do we go about making those decisions? Some of the choices above may seem obvious to you, some of them not so obvious. Some of them may even present false dilemmas, which is the logician’s way of identifying an “either/or” situation that doesn’t account for other valid choices.

For example, couldn’t you:

  • Work out with your son?
  • Eat just a bite of Aunt Martha’s cake?
  • Every once in a while, at least, have the whole family eat a healthy meal?

Sure you could. I would, personally, choose not to eat the cake, but I would be all for — at least once in a while — working out with my son, if I had one. I would love to try to encourage my family to eat healthier meals by preparing them in such a way that they’d enjoy them every so often.

The yoga versus reading example above gets me pretty often, and, honestly, I usually opt for reading, but the example above that I live with most is whether or not to take time to prepare fresh food.

The meal I just ate for lunch gave me the idea for this post. It was a Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burger (processed) with bottled sriracha (processed) and cut up tomatoes (fresh) and kale (fresh), plus some balsamic vinegar (processed). It was really good, and, admittedly, not the worst thing for me.

However, had I had time, I would rather have made my own bean burger and sriracha. (The vinegar, I’ll leave to the experts.)

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’m busy. I have things to do. I’m not talking about sitting in front of a tv — although I do that, too, because relaxation is important — but I mean real things. So, yeah, I eat processed beanburgers and bottled sriracha. Every once in a great while I’ll make up some burgers and freeze them, but generally I eat the Morningstar ones, and I’ve yet to make my own sriracha. Are you kidding? Have you tried that rooster sauce? How could I beat that!

Would my health and fitness be better without processed food? Sure, and I am conscious of that. In fact, as I was cooking the burger, I purposely thought about what I could eat to balance the meal with something fresh.

So, yeah, I choose to spend my time on other things, rather than use it all making food from scratch. Maybe when I retire — if that ever happens — I’ll make more of my own food. Hell, I may even have a garden!

However, time in my life is currently at a premium. So when it comes to eating processed foods, I do it, but I try to make good choices. Fresh food? I prepare and eat a lot of it, but 100%? Ain’t nobody got time for that.