Imagine a trained Marine, in a combat situation…say, he is stationed in a barracks in the Middle East and routinely patrols war zones with others, all trained just like he is. At the start of each day, and before dinner each evening, he takes his rifle apart and cleans it. It is not just a cleaning but also an inventory of its condition, strengths and weaknesses. He creates a plan for target practice tomorrow and mentally visualizes using it in a crisis situation as he reassembles it. He knows what each part does, and he knows that there are consequences if some of them break. For example, a broken stock has consequences to his use of his weapon. A broken trigger, and it is like not having a weapon at all. He knows his gun like nothing else in his life.
Imagine that same Marine, each night, taking his rifle and sneaking some mud on it, when no one is looking. Let’s say he puts some mud in the barrel, under the trigger and smears some on each end of his scope. He tells himself, “it is night time, and during the day, when I am on duty, the gun will be cleaned and in great condition.” He rationalizes, thinking, “I clean it before the start of the day, and at the end of the day….who cares if there is some mud on it when I am not really using it? Heck, it’s my gun anyway!”
Who would call that guy dedicated to taking care of the tools of his trade? Would you hire his as a contract mercenary to protect you? Would you conclude that he takes care of rifle? Lastly, would you bet on him in a sharp shooting contest?
Would you even hire him to teach you how to take care of your rifle?
Yet, that is exactly how 2nd rate athletes and athletic trainers sometimes approach food. And, that has been my relationship with food. During the day, I drink protein shakes, exercise and consume copious water. My meals are full of fruits, whole grains and veggies. I am exercising diligently, sweating like a beast of burden as I cycle and run in the Carolina Humidity (Capital H) as I refine my body. Alas, I go to bed. Then, sometime, during the night, when the urge hits me, I get up and want to eat. Indeed, I do get up and eat. Some call it sleep eating. Whatever it is, I am hungry in the middle of the night, too often to count.
At those 2 am sneaks into the fridge, I am not always thinking about what the effects of my actions might be. I am not even justifying it. I am always alone at that time, in the kitchen and I get whatever I want either from the fridge or the pantry. Sometimes, I get some yoghurt with fruit. In fact, I did that last night. That was a good choice…it lead to this blog post. Yet, there are times when I find myself behaving like that marine, junking up the very “rifle” that I am investing in, every day for the next four months. Instead, I find myself guilty of getting a Pop Tart…or a PB J sandwich, with double PB, then go right back to bed, thinking that within the next 8 hours, I will have worked off the calories. My behavior isn’t exactly the same as putting mud up my barrel or gunk in the lenses of my scope. But it does invalidate the effort that I had done that day to keep my body ready of action. It does make me question how serious I am taking this Duathlon preparation.
So, I have three new points of awareness that have been awesome at changing my muddy gun behavior. The first one is the biggest one. I log all the foods that I eat and exercise that I do using an online app: myfitnesspal.com. It contains an online database that already contains everything that I already eat, including brand names and restaurant items. For the last three weeks, I can tell you how many calories, grams of protein, fat and carbs and how much sodium I have consumed, every day. I also log the amount of exercise I am doing, how much water I am drinking and how much stretching I am doing. I conclude that tracking what you eat and what you do is all good. For the first time, I see what the mud is!
I also see what is in a Starbuck’s White Chocolate Mocha, and I pause in disbelief. That 12 ounce cup has 470 calories and 59 grams of sugar. That is about 1/8th of a pound of sugar in one cup of coffee. Really? Three boneless buffalo wing bits from Applebee’s has 590 Calories…that is a half order of what is listed as an appetizer. A side Caesar Salad has more calories than two cans of coke. Huh? Give me grilled veggies and lean meat, and I am OK!
The second event is my awareness of others doing the same thing that I have been guilty of. I see guys work out really hard only to get a meal at Chick Filet, with full fries and drink. And they wonder why they can’t get to the weight that they want to. I see others workout and finish the day with a plate of food the size of Arkansas and paint it with ketchup or teriyaki sauce. Ketchup has more calories in it than rice, ounce for ounce, and more salt in it than McDonald’s French Fries, according to this app. Just drink cyanide, won’t you?
Thirdly, I see the difference that tracking makes. I started this close to 190, and I set a goal to hit 172 or so by the end of my baseline training. I am now at 174, and it hasn’t taken a lot of saying “No” against my will, as previous efforts at losing weight have required. It has included just tracking the facts of my own eating and exercise life, and analyzing what they mean, using one of my greatest love languages-numbers.
Concurrent to this, my wife has been taking a class in food and dieting, and she is taking a much different perspective than the one of accountability and measurement that I am on. She is setting goals and helping pick foods that best answer the question, “what is good for us, as a family?” Low calorie, sodium, etc, doesn’t necessarily mean it will help us stay healthy. We are still not on the exact same page….I know this because she doesn’t like for me to go food shopping with her. Ha!
I am not a marine, nor do I carry a rifle, but if I conclude that I need to treat my body no differently that a healthy marine treats his rifle. No midnight mud in the barrel allowed, anymore.