Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ego Over Matter: The Games We Play To Get Motivated

As I’ve said in previous posts, the mind sometimes needs to have a break in its routine, or something to tweak or distract it, so that our long term goals can be met and managed. While the drastic may be effective in the short term, it’s rarely effective in the long run. Humans are creatures that like comfortable habits, and if we are too strict in certain areas for a targeted amount of time, it can be really difficult to stay motivated and hold the line.

Weight does not come on all at one, though I do think that, if you have been heavy before, and you lose weight, it’s much easier to drift back to that point again. This may be a weird analogy, but I look at the human body the same way I do a thick latex balloon. When the balloon is fresh, it can take effort to blow into the balloon and expand it. Let the air out and then attempt to fill it with air again, it takes a lot less pressure from your breath to fill the balloon again. This analogy is similar to how the human body reacts when a person slows down their activity or when a person increases caloric intake, even if just a little bit on either end (and of course more pronounced if both sides of the equations are modified in the same direction).

Identifying why and where these strange little tweaks of life take place can be very telling. One of the biggest where I work is the copious amounts of snack food that are available. As a Q.A> Engineer, I tend to deal with work that can be interesting and exciting at times (and really, I do enjoy what I do for a living and strive to improve my effectiveness at it), but sometimes I have to deal with the tedious and monotonous (hey, it happens). The periods where I need to deal with the tedious and monotonous are my body’s biggest enemy; the reason is that I get restless, and then I get up and page, and then I need to walk around, which brings me ever closer to the break room and the potpourri of chips, nuts, crackers, chocolate, candy and any number of other things. By the end of the day, I can easily have added 1,000 more calories than I needed for that day, and have no way of accounting for it (well, no actually, it’s easy to account for it… it went from the cupboard to a bowl to my hand to my mouth… tada!!!). What I mean is that those are mindless calories, often consumed with no purpose other than “it was there”.

SO how does one effectively blunt these feelings and deal around situations like this during the day? Well, it would be awesome if I could just dump all of the tedious and repetitive tasks I need to do and forget about them permanently, but that is not practical. What’s one to do while they are dealing with sysprep and making virtual machines, or walking through a programs logic paths over and over and over? My current strategy is based around copious amounts of herbal tea, water and sugarless gum… and I mean a *LOT* of sugarless gum (LOL!).Right now, each and every work morning I start with a simple, lower calorie breakfast, and then as soon as I get to work, I rotate and add the five or so chewing gum packs that I have sitting on my desk (for those who care, I’m a big fan of trident Twist flavors and as many packs of different flavored “5” gum that I can find. Add to that about a half gallon of water a day hat has been steeped with various herbal teas (Good Earth’s Spicy Sweet Tea is still my favorite… the lemongrass, ginger and cinnamon kick one’s butt along with the flavor of the roobios bush :) ). Repeat throughout the day, sticking to a low calorie meal around the middle of the day, and then coming home to dinner at 6:00 PM… and then no more after that, if feasible.

So how is this working for me? So far, pretty well. I must confess that I’m not dropping like 10 pounds a week, but then I do not expect to, nor do I really want to. Having learned from rapid weight losses in the past, the “natural man” likes his creature comforts, and when the goal is set, and the desire to train and diet give way, the “natural man” and his desire to be comfortable at all costs roars back into life. My change isn’t meant to be radical, merely to bring awareness to something I’m currently doing all the time… chewing gum until the flavor runs out and the stacking another flavor in. Same goes with the herbal tea; I’m rotating as many flavors during the day as I can. While it doesn’t stop me from eating (and frankly, I don’t want it to *stop* me from eating), it blunts the desire to get up and graze during those inevitable periods of “brain tired, must get munchies to keep going”. Now when I hit that point, I make it a point to take a walk *outside*, which has proven to be all sorts of awesome and helpful (LOL!).

Thus my point for this missive is that, occasionally, a gimmick can break you out of complacent habit, and it can give you a shot in the arm to try another approach. With our show coming up in ten weeks, this is *exactly* the shot in the arm I need right now (LOL!).

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