I did it. I fashioned a system that allows me to put the power of my limbic system to use, instead of fighting against it, to get down to 15% body fat. I know how susceptible I am to the power of video games, so now I have pitted the emotions associated with eating something tasty not against the scrawny opponent of reason on evidence about future gains, but against the even more powerful emotions associated with getting three stars on a level of Angry Birds. I’ve been at it for a week, kind of messing with the design as I go, and I do believe it is working.
I have a body fat scale, and for the last month or so I’ve been floating around 23-24%, which means I have a visible gut, but I can suck it in and look how I want to in a mirror with a shirt on. I’m not satisfied with that, and I am entirely closed to anyone who would want to convince me that I should “love myself the way I am” or whatever, so here’s what I’m doing to get down to 15%:
First off, I have committed firmly not to buy any alcohol until I reach that 15% mark, as measured by my scale. This is a loophole-ridden rule, as I already have quite the stash of wine, scotch, and liquor at home, and people have no problem buying me drinks because I am fun to be around. Still, it sets the tone of this whole endeavor.
Second, there are two things I would like to do on a weekly basis:
- Fast for one day a week – so not eat anything starting at 9pm on Saturday (could be shifted to Friday if necessary) and ending at 9pm on the next day, so typically a Sunday fast. Water is fine, and I think some black coffee is fine.
- Drink alcohol according to the 2-2-2 rule – that is no more than two drinks a day, no more than two days in any given seven-day period, and on no two consecutive days.
So I made these constitute two of five “stars” I can earn in a week.
Third, the other three stars come from earning “points” from daily activity. I can earn ten points a day for a total of seventy in the week, and thus I earn a star for getting more than zero points, another star for more than forty points, and a final star for earning more than X points, where X starts at fifty and moves with the average of the previous three weeks*, so as to make it harder on myself if I’m doing well and easier if I’m not.
The ten daily things I chose are the following, many of which (2-6) I get for free on the day that I fast:
- Get up by 7:30a – because a consistent sleep schedule is important for health stuff.
- Don’t cave to taste for lunch – meaning, don’t choose something tasty over something healthy on the menu, or don’t get something extra like fries just because they taste good.
- JERF for lunch – where JERF stands for “just eat real food”. This is an advanced version of #2, so I get more points for doing really well, but if I miss a little thing, I can still get a point.
- JERF for all snacks at work – because there are chocolate-covered almonds in the break room that want to destroy me. I still haven’t figured out how to make this point work on weekends, but I am okay with a little subjectivity here.
- Go to the gym (if not fasting) – and at least change into gym clothes. I don’t actually have to do anything at the gym in order to get this point, because getting there is the bulk of the battle.
- Do cardio (if not fasting) – defined as 30 contiguous minutes of my heart rate being approximately 150 BPM, typically about 35 minutes on an elliptical machine.
- JERF for dinner – not quite as big a deal as lunch, because I typically don’t eat dinner in a social context
- Take supplements correctly all day – including at least vitamin D and omega 3, with other supplements depending on what workout I’m doing
- Drink zero alcohol all day – the daily reminder that makes the 2-2-2 rule feasible
- Start med-bed by midnight – where “med-bed” is meditating for somewhere between 5-20 minutes (mostly positive self-talk and goal visualization) before going to sleep.
The end result is that if I need to break a rule, or if I happen to mess something up, it’s generally fine, because there is no difference between getting 70 points and getting 60 points (assuming X is below 60). I just can’t keep messing up and expect the same reward.
To top it off, every Monday I will post a link to this post, along with my stars, my points, the value of X, and my standardized body fat measurement from the previous week, to Facebook. I will also write it on a sticky note and put it on my monitor for my coworkers to see. I will pretend that they will deride me for missing stars, even though they probably won’t, but my limbic system doesn’t know that. As you read this, you are contributing to my success, so thank you.
My goal is to get a six-week five-star streak, preferably through the holiday season, and I will be very interested to see how much fat I lose if I achieve that goal.
* The precise algorithm for X, depending on P, the set of up to three of the scores of most recent weeks in which I earned more than 40 points, is: floor((50 + sum(p in P)) / (1 + #P)))