In a recently published post I discussed how living a healthy lifestyle begins with commitment to change. I dove into the inception of my journey, primarily focusing on much needed fitness changes I incorporated into my life. In this segment I intend on highlighting nutritional modifications I made to my diet, why I made those changes, how they have affected me thus far, and where my diet currently stands.
I wrote the following in the previous essay:
At the end of 2019, after having lived in airports, airplanes, and hotels for the vast majority of the year – accumulating around 190,000 miles in business travel – I was not in a good place in terms of my eating habits, weight, and overall lifestyle. It was quite obvious I needed to make some type of positive, and potentially drastic, lifestyle changes towards a healthier way of life. As the world rang in 2020, and the festivities evaporated, I dove head first into some major changes to ascertain their effectiveness on my state of readiness.
What I intend to cover today is what I was alluding to in that final sentence.
At the end of 2019, while ringing in the new year, I was highly conscious I needed to incorporate major changes into my life if I wanted to be healthier. While not as bad as it could have been, it was rather obvious my diet was heading in a negative direction. As I said in the previous post, I essentially had no discipline when it came to what food I consumed, how I consumed it, and when I consumed it.
I would hit the airport lounge late at night before a red-eye flight, and drink some wine and enjoy whatever food I thought worth eating prior to boarding. After takeoff I would eat whatever was being served before drifting off to sleep for the rest of the flight. During business days I would eat at odd hours, have inconsistent meals, and eat way more junk than healthy food.
Since I traveled so often in 2019 I was used to eating in lounges, hotel rooms and restaurants, and various dining establishments not known for their healthy selections. Airport lounges are not renown for huge arrays of food. Often I would head straight for heavy foods like curry rice, small hamburgers, ethnic chicken dishes, and other tasty but far from healthy food. These "meals" would be accompanied with multiple glasses of wine, helping me unwind after long days of non-stop business meetings and internal discussions.
Outside of airports I often partook in hotel room service or local cuisine, never once pausing to consider the nutritional value of my decisions. The vast majority of these meals would be paired with wine. Not one glass, but multiple glasses, even sometimes multiple bottles if I were out with colleagues or business partners.
One of my favorite travel pastimes is to visit the hotel lounge and indulge in the free happy hour food service. I remember many occasions eating a lot of fresh vegetables and hummus on one plate, and then some kind of deep fried food and/or sweets on the other. This would be french fries, egg-rolls, macaroons, cakes, and any other food the hotel could easily turn into a greasy, sopping, sugary, tasty mess.
What is the icing on this terrifying cake? I paid zero attention to when I ate. At the time, it never occurred to me to consider when I was eating these nonsensical dishes. I would often be eating as late as 10pm.
While this was fine when I was a youngster, it is a horrible way to treat your body at this older age. In many cases I would stuff my face with all this healthy food, only to go back to the hotel, sit down on the bed and start watching a movie or something on the television. With my stomach feeling like a lead weight, I would pass out asleep within minutes, never offering my body any opportunity to rid itself of this treachery.
As countries across the globe were celebrating the new year, without nary an inkling of the chaos 2020 was hiding under its cape, I started plotting a strategy to improve my health. It is not like I was sick, nor diagnosed with any particular issue, but I was innately aware life changes were necessary. The consequences would be hell to pay unless I took a hard right turn, and opted towards a healthy lifestyle rather than a free-for-all.
I conceptualized all the food I was consuming, when I was consuming it, and what the food contained. Armed with this knowledge I developed a fairly easy strategy to not only increase my nutrition, but supplement it with physical activity. My daily goal was to be calorie neutral at the worst, in a calorie deficit at best. The main tenet of this plan was simple: it has to be easy.
This is key: achievable goals. It was imperative I set realistic and achievable goals otherwise I would quickly lose motivation. It was important to ensure whatever I decided to do I would be able to do it for at least 60 days straight so it would turn into a habit. I wanted this positive change to be part of my life moving forward, rather than just some passing fad.
Quite frankly, my plan was really simple. It was so simple that on the surface it may not even have appeared to be particularly noteworthy. So what was this fabled plan?
- No more refined sugar purposely added to any consumables during the work week (aka Monday through Friday).
- No consumption of sweets during the work week.
- No consumption of processed foods, period, the end.
- No consumption of alcohol during the work week.
- No consumption of bread during the work week.
- Increased daily consumption of fresh vegetables.
- Increased daily consumption of fresh fruits.
This was the extent of my 2020 nutrition and realignment plan. As you can plainly see, it is nothing extraordinary. This is why I considered my strategy easy to execute.
Approximately eight years ago I had cut sweetened drinks out of my diet, so it was not like I needed to drop Coke and other similar beverages cold turkey. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a carbonated or highly sweetened drink, even drinks like Starbucks frappuccinos. I do not consider sparkling water to fall in the aforementioned category unless it has sweeteners or flavor enhancers added to it. Pure play sparkling water is just fine to drink.
The toughest part for me was cutting bread out of my daily breakfast diet. I love bread, and was eating it almost daily, along with other unhealthy and heavy food. Just as tough was cutting out sweet foods, and avoiding using sugar, especially in drinks like cappuccino's and tea.
Although tough, I was extremely motivated and steadfast in my desire to change my life.
I did find refuge in food I previously rarely ate. Throughout the year I started really enjoying freshly steamed vegetables. I also began to eat a lot of yogurt, primarily mixing fresh fruit and granola with honey as my main breakfast item. It was really interesting to see how my palate was continually evolving as I got deeper into the diet.
Near the end of the year, and a couple times thus far this year, I tried my hand at three-day fasting. The very first time was a horrifying experience thanks to the withdrawals on day one, but after about twenty-four hours the headaches and mood swings disappeared. I transitioned into some weird zone where I was able to think much clearer, focus easier, and was knocking work out left and right. This, too, had a profound affect on my palate.
Starting a new diet is daunting and takes not only your commitment but also from those around you. In my case, my wife supported my strategy and if I ever came close to faltering she was there to get me to course correct. Having a supporting cast is another key component of successfully achieving your goals.
My resolve coupled with assistance from my family really allowed me to do what I needed to do to achieve my nutrition goals.
It is now mid-2021, approximately eighteen months after I commenced this strategy. I continue to follow these techniques, although I am a bit less rigid these days. At this point I see no benefit in stopping the diet. My desire for sugary foods has all but vanished, and I do not miss enjoying a glass of wine throughout the week.
Prior to starting my journey I read a lot of different stories. I wanted to share my adventure because it has the potential to help someone devise their own achievable personal nutrition strategy.
There is nothing more rewarding than concocting a strategy to get healthier, and see the positive after-effects of the changes. In a subsequent post I will discuss the many positive changes my body has endured since January 2020.
If you want to change your life for the better, you absolutely have the tools available at your disposal to modify your health. All it takes is committing to taking that proverbial first difficult step. Do not be afraid, just dive in the deep end and do it!