Routines and Habits

Every Monday, I teach an hour class, have an hour break, and then an hour training session immediately followed by giving a ninety minute massage (followed later in the day by teaching a ninety minute class). I have to eat something in that hour break or I will run out of energy. Ideally, I plan ahead and bring something but that doesn’t always happen.

For a couple of weeks, I’d walk to the nearby Safeway during this break and buy a 16oz protein drink and two hard boiled eggs. I’m big on patterns and routines and realized that this was quickly becoming a habit and that I should look at it to determine if it is a good one.

The eggs are fine. Each one is packing 70 calories and 6g of protein for 140 total calories and 12g of protein together.

The problem is the protein drink. The label says 220 calories, 15g of protein, and 30g of sugar. This isn’t amazing but is within the realms of tolerable except that there are two servings in the drink and I drink the full 16oz (which 99% of the world will also do) so the true nutritional toll is 440 calories, 30g of protein, and 60g of sugar.

With the eggs, that tallies 580 calories, 42g of protein, and 60g of sugar. Trying to eat 2,500-3,000 calories a day and about 200g of protein a day, these numbers are a bit high for calories (this is basically snack and packing about a fourth of my desired calories for the day), good for protein, and totally out of line for sugar (more than I’d actually like to eat in a day total). The protein drink was also about $4 whereas the two eggs were 98 cents.

I decided to put back the protein drink and just get four hard boiled eggs and drink more water. This meant I was consuming 280 calories, 24g of protein, and pretty much no sugar. It also cost me $2 instead of $5.

This is a savings of 300 calories and 60g of sugar (not to mention $3). Scaled out to 52 weeks, that is 15,600 calories. Divide that by 3,500 calories (roughly what causes you to gain a pound), that turns into 4.46lbs. So all things being equal, doing scenario A over an entire year versus scenario B is a difference in body weight of almost five pounds.

This is just a decision about what to do for a snack one day a week. To me, life is a set of habits and routines. Habits and routines are our friends for staying healthy and maintaining a decent weight in the face of a fairly sedentary lifestyle filled with calorie laden food. People stress about going to a party or eating a big Thanksgiving dinner, but it is actually the regular routine decisions and habits which determine whether we are fat or not.

For instance, studies show that people have way more tolerance for eating the same thing for breakfast every day versus eating the same thing for dinner every day. Given that, it is a good idea to make breakfast a very healthy, well thought-out routine meal. For me, that usually means a mostly vegetable smoothie and steel cut oatmeal.

We also are pretty good about registering calories that we have eaten and physically chewed but horrible about perceiving calories that we drink so things like sugar laden soft drinks, sweetened teas, coffee, energy drinks, and protein drinks are a bad idea. Most people already know this. However, most people forget how many calories and sugar in particular are in juice and milk. People should stick to water for almost all their liquid consumption. People drinking black coffee or diet soda aren’t immune either… these are strong diuretics and are basically like negative water consumption since they require more water to process the diuretic than is in the beverage.

The biggest habit that affects health the most is a good sleep routine. While sleeping, our bodies primarily run off of fat. While awake, we mostly run off sugar (which is easily replenished and doesn’t affect weight loss as much). The simplest way to burn more fat is to get more sleep.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of best practices but is merely trying to point out that creating a routine for you and taking a critical look at these routine choices can have a huge impact on your health, weight, and appearance. If you find yourself doing something regularly, it is a good idea to sit down and think about it and whether it is a good idea. Running numbers and tracking metrics is the best way to get results. Look at nutrition info and add it up. Track how much you sleep and how much water your drink. Try different scenarios and see how each impacts how you feel, your energy level, your weight, etc. If you aren’t happy with your results, then look at the data and make better decisions.

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