Ben Carlson wrote an excellent piece about how knowledge is not enough in life. If one desires to effect change then knowledge without action is just an interesting academic exercise. It can actually end up being demoralizing as nothing is more frustrating than knowing what to do but lacking the desire to carry out the action and the discipline to stick with it. Carlson illuminates some very depressing facts about how much we spend on dieting and weight loss and how poor the results are.
In the 1960s approximately 13% of Americans were obese. Today two-thirds are overweight or obese despite spending huge sums on weight loss, nutrition, and exercise. These terrible results come despite us knowing so much more about what it takes to be healthy. We cannot make any kind of plausible case that we are lacking information. We are lacking the desire and discipline.
The same can be said for investing as well. We all know that saving methodically over a long period of time and managing our spending can allow our capital to compound impressively. This allows time to become our friend in terms of reaching our financial goals instead of our enemy. We don’t need to go on a crash diet (which never works sustainably) as we realize we are lacking the financial wherewithal to pay for important things in life. We just need to be in the game consistently for a long period of time. Like nutrition, however, there is a lot of easy access to junk food equivalent in the world of investing. There are so many different options and easy liquidity that prey on our worst tendencies and end up hurting our financial health. Like healthy nutrition, it’s better to have a simple system that adheres to a few basic rules and allows one to participate consistently and to do all one can to avoid the junk food of overspending and frenetic trading, especially into areas in which you have very little knowledge.
Fitness Camp Changing Bodies and Minds
Throughout the course of our 28 years of marriage, my wife and I have been pretty good on the financial side of the ledger in terms of delaying gratification, saving money, investing where we have felt like we can adequately assess the risk and potential rewards, and managing our spending. On the health front, however, it’s been a much different story. Neither of us has really been able to put together a sustainable exercise program. And while my wife has been a very healthy eater, I have been pretty lazy in this domain. We have now gotten to an age where it was time to take action and, as usual, my wife was the catalyst for it.
We recently completed one week at a fitness camp. This was definitely her idea and I was not an enthusiastic participant but was excited to spend a week together and at least do something healthy. She wanted to find a way for us to create a bridge to a more healthy lifestyle. She also thought it would be fun to do it together and strengthen our relationship.
As usual, she was on to something. The first day we met with one of the trainers and he said that Couples that sweat together stay together. Click To Tweet We found that to be a very powerful statement and aspirational goal.
When prior to going to the camp she told me that we would be timed in the mile the first day I immediately went into panic mode. I was in no shape to do a mile and I was not going to embarrass myself. I went online and immediately joined a gym and started focusing on cardio with my first visit. I was able to get back into the game of exercise by doing 20 to 30 minutes of cardio for six straight days before heading to the camp. I am really glad I did that versus starting the program cold turkey.
The first day we had our blood work done, measurements taken, and weight and body fat calibrated. I was not happy with my results. My wife described me as a fat, skinny person. The results confirmed her assessment. I am not overweight but my body fat percentage was higher than it should have been and I clearly had too much fat in my system as shown by my blood work. I was pissed off at myself and determined to make a change. While I had some knowledge of how to make the necessary changes, I was not emotionally invested. Now I was. I was all eyes and ears and ready to get to work.Health is 80% nutrition and 20% exerciseClick To Tweet
The first important information I learned is that health is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Of course, one’s genes play a role too but most of us can be healthy within the context of our genetic predisposition. On the other hand, it is very difficult to change our body shapes. We have to do our best to accept that and then develop a disciplined approach to eating and working out.
We exercised for about four to five hours per day doing some form of cardio and resistance training as well as attended lectures on nutrition, weight training, and psychological tools to feel better about ourselves and to look at this as a lifelong journey which should focus on very small milestones at first that can compound over time into positive results.
We also had a very restricted nutrition plan in that men were limited to 1,500 calories per day and women 1,200. This included three meals and two snacks and dinner was served at 5:00. That was a very big change for us as we usually eat later, as most people do. It’s also very important to eat every two to three hours. I was a terrible offender of this as I normally eat lunch only approximately 40% of the time.
At every meal and snack, there was a combination of protein, carbs, and fats. This is an absolute must. We had no processed foods, flour, or unnatural sugar. I am definitely a dessert person so I thought this would be a big missing for me and something I would crave. I also thought I was eating well every morning because I have been making a smoothie for years loaded with all of the food groups. What I failed to take into account is that I was eating too much fruit and consuming too much sugar. We are only supposed to have up to 55 grams of sugar per day and my smoothies were putting me overboard very early in the day by including a banana, orange, frozen berries, and natural honey plus sugars that came with the other ingredients. The nutritionist recommended only ¼ of a banana (how to peel) and maybe a few berries.
Is it possible to make a meaningful difference in one week? If my blood work is any indication then it is absolutely the case. Here were some of my metrics before and after:
|Camp Target||Before||National Scale||One Week Later||National Scale|
|Triglycerides||100 or Less||198||Borderline High||59||Normal|
|Cholesterol||170 or Less||211||Borderline High||169||Desirable|
|LDL (Bad Cholesterol)||100 or Less||133||Borderline High||120||Near Optimal/Optimal|
|Glucose||100 or Less||106||Borderline High||83||Normal|
Needless to say, I was ecstatic with these results. I’m not only a believer now but a true believer. I make sure to eat three meals a day balanced between protein, carbs, and fats and bring two snacks to work that have all three components as well. Besides the improved body chemistry, II have also lost five pounds and some body fat percentage.
I feel much more healthy, energetic, and rarely do I have cravings for sugar or desserts or fried foods. I have not had a dessert or junk food snack or fast food in nearly two weeks and I don’t miss them. That is not to say I will cut them out completely but I now know I don’t need much of them to still derive enjoyment from what I eat. And because I’m eating every two to three hours I don’t feel very hungry that I have often satiated by eating sweets or large meals.
And now that I have seen the results quantitatively and experientially I don’t want to disrupt the delicate ecosystem that seems to be very much in balance after a few weeks of healthy eating and exercise. And rather than getting into the office relatively early, which is more my norm, and using my energies through my mind and intellect, I now prioritize starting my day by exercising my body. This has the added benefit of giving me more energy, feeling better, and a lot more mental clarity.
Just as we find that putting money aside every month and being careful with regard to what we spend can literally pay great dividends in the future, embarking on a consistent program of healthy eating and exercise can as well. And unlike investing, the odds of seeing immediate results are much higher and can bring great satisfaction and enjoyment to your life.
I encourage everyone to get in the game of health and stick with it for one week and you should already feel better for having done so.
Over to You:
Have you gone through a health metamorphosis? What instigated or who instigated the change and how has it improved your life?