Dragons, meet our second new contributing writer, Joe Hogan! Follow him on his fitness journey! Check out more about him in the about us. He also does the Geektitude podcast, and I was on it…twice! Come back here every other Thursday to check out his progress. Enjoy. — Kenny
The first thing we have to do to create change in our lives is to identify and admit to the problem. So…my name is Joe Hogan, and I am grossly out of shape. At 5’7” (on a good day), I currently weigh 228.8 pounds. I’m always tired and I’m not a fan of the guy looking back at me in the mirror when I get out of the shower in the morning. I know I need to start watching what I eat and I know I need to be more active. I also know that if I do those things, I’ll feel better. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to know that you need to change, but it’s quite another thing to make that change happen. That’s why I’m starting the GAME Plan column.
First, I should explain what this column is NOT. I’m not a health and fitness professional. I won’t be writing fitness magazine tips that will give you six-pack abs in 6 weeks and I won’t be coming at you with the latest fad diet that will make you thin and trim for the beach this summer. Instead, this column will be a journal of my successes and failures as I work towards a healthier lifestyle. Why should you care? Well, my hope is that anyone reading this will be able to learn from my mistakes, benefit from my successes, and find motivation in my journey to work towards their own health goals.
Me and My Challenges
I’m a high school English and Drama teacher living in Palm Springs, California. I work about 85 miles away from home, so I spend at least 3 hours on the road each day. By the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is workout. On top of that, my husband and I have just started a major remodel of our home, which has left us without a kitchen for at least the next 4 months. That means there will be a lot of take-out and not as much cooking for a while. So, I have a lot of opportunities for excuses. Sure, I could wait until the kitchen is finished before trying to work on my diet. And, wouldn’t it be easier to start working out over the summer? There are always justifications for not making the changes we know we should. The challenge is not giving in to them.
That’s why I’m calling this experience the GAME Plan. I’m a geek. Geeks like games! So my plan is to stick to 4 basic ideas:
The first thing to realize when you start moving towards any change is that it’s not going to happen overnight. The quickest way to defeat yourself is to try and make too many changes all at the same time. For my goals, I plan on picking one nutrition goal and one fitness goal each week. That gives me two things to focus on and take control of, instead of dividing my attention over many goals and eventually failing to keep up with any of them.
Nutrition Goal: Cut down on sugar.
Originally, my goal was to cut down on carbs, but I know that even that’s not gradual enough for me at this point. Last year, I lost about 30lbs. by cutting carbs, but I put most of it back on because I it was too much of a change too quickly. So, instead, I’m starting off by cutting out candy and sweets. We have boxes of fundraising candy just sitting in my classroom waiting to be sold so that I can take my students to Drama competitions. Those are off limits as is the candy at the movie theater. I’m not giving up the pasta and french fries yet. First, lets get rid of something a little easier. The rest will come eventually.
Fitness Goal: Walk to the food at least 3 times a week.
Again, my original goal was to “walk the 10,000 steps each day” that a bunch of my friends and colleagues talk about as they look at their fitbits and apple watches. For where I am right now, 10,000 steps seem daunting. Where I work, however, there are a lot of restaurants in walking distance, and I live close to some nice restaurants as well. So, at least 3 times a week, I plan on walking to my food instead of driving there. It gets me moving, but it’s not forcing me into a rigorous routine that I’m going to give up on as soon as my schedule gets busy or I hit some bad traffic on the way home.
It may seem like I’m setting the bar low right now, and in some ways I am. The important thing to remember is that these are my goals for NOW. It’s a starting place. If I set my goals too high, it’s easy to give up at the first failure.
Gradual changes are great, but it’s easy to settle into and justify staying at these goals unless we have the second part of the GAME plan:
I find I’m great at talking myself out of doing the things I know I’m supposed to do. So, to prevent this, I know I need to be accountable to someone. That someone should be a person (or people) that I interact with on a regular basis. That person should also NOT be my significant other. My husband is loving and supportive, but it’s not fair to put him in a position where he has to police my activities. If he calls me out on eating something I know I shouldn’t, it’s too easy to get defensive and resent him for trying to hold me accountable. What WILL hold me accountable is posting this column. It’s would be embarrassing to write about “my journey to a healthier life,” and not make any progress. So feel free to contact me and prod me along! I’m happy to do the same if you need someone to be accountable to.
Don’t prod too often, though, because it’s important to maintain the next step which is:
If I “need” to cheat and have a cookie, then I should have the cookie. Cheating once in a while isn’t the end of the world as long as it’s only once in a while. I also don’t need ALL the cookies. If I’m going to cheat and eat a cookie, I should eat 1 cookie. But, moderation works in both directions. Forcing myself to never cheat is what caused me to give up last year. The cheating wasn’t even cookies or candy most of the time. There were some times I just wanted a potato. I didn’t care what form it came in…mashed, french fried, baked…I just wanted a friggin’ potato! Instead of allowing myself to have the occasional carb, I sabotaged myself and gave up altogether. It would have been better to cheat once and move on than to give up the whole enchilada. Mmmm…enchiladas.
That brings me to the last part of my GAME plan…
If I can’t find joy in what I’m doing, I’m not going to stick with it. I’m not saying every workout is going to be amazing and skipping dessert isn’t going to be the most fun decision I make in a day, but if every healthy choice I make is negative, I’m just going to end up resenting the entire process. So my plan is to find ways to make this journey fun. My hope is that those bits of fun and silliness that I can sprinkle into workouts and food choices will be what ultimately leads me to success. And hopefully, those will be the fun bits of inspiration I can pass on to any of you who decide to embark on your own journeys.
Now that we’ve established the plan, the trick is to keep at it. That’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when first starting out. But the fact of the matter is, change needs to happen, so it’s time to start down the road.
I’ll be posting GAME Plan every other week. If you want to follow me on a more regular basis, if you need someone to be accountable to, or if you want to share your own journey, you can reply to this post or you can follow me on twitter @EpicGrays. My hope is that we can use this space to create a community of geeks that support each other as they work towards a healthier life. Until next time, remember to #WorkOutNerdOut!