Monetizing failure: February report

Back in January, I started in on an exercise schedule with monetary penalties for missed workouts. In February, I added a restriction against late night snacks. I’m happy to report that things have continued to go well, with nary a missed workout or unapproved nosh. I haven’t been able to motivate myself to bank any extra workouts, which probably says something about the process, but overall, I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made.

About halfway through February, I got really gung-ho and started thinking about adding all sorts of new rules – I could go to four workouts a week! Or give up sugar in my coffee! – then stopped myself. What I realized was that adding one new rule per month gave me the time to build good habits, and that if the plan is for this to be my new normal (as opposed to being a temporary program that would end once I reached some goal), then it doesn’t matter if I take it a little more slowly – I’ll get there eventually. If I stick to the plan of adding one new habit per month, then each should be easy enough to add into the mix without having to feel like it’s a struggle.

In January I built up some endurance, and a little muscle mass, but didn’t lose any weight. In February, I started losing a little weight, but still less than expected (maybe 4 lbs?). Given the amount of cardio I’m doing, it seems clear that diet should be the next area of focus.

For March, the rule I thought would be most impactful would be to start eating healthier lunches at work. The buffet is too tempting, and it’s too hard to moderate – far easier to simply avoid the worst offenders. So, starting in March, I will cut out meat (not including fish or broth) and fried food from work lunches. Also, no more snacks from the “snack wall.” Standard penalties apply.

I feel as though a lot of my bad habits don’t have a lot of weight behind them – they’re momentary impulses, not bone-deep addictions – they just don’t have any counterbalancing forces. It’s galling to be at the mercy of impulses that are mostly the product of boredom, convenience, or an orienting response (mmm, chocolate…). Creating these public rules and penalties has been a very effective tool for beating them so far, but I don’t want to get cocky – like any workout regime or diet, I’m sure they can be derailed. Let’s see how March goes.

2 thoughts on “Monetizing failure: February report

  1. Just out of curiosity, why is the meat from the catered lunches that you are choosing to cut out? It seems to me like the meat would be the one thing you should continue to eat while cutting out the cheesy, creamy, fattier foods. Unless you are eliminating the meat for reasons of cholesterol or red meats for fat? The one thing that the meat gives you that the other foods will not (or at least not in such high amounts) is protein, which is a very important staple of a fitness oriented diet. Assuming you are working towards a new normal of activity via exercise in your life, then eating a fitness oriented diet would be an excellent habit to adopt as well.

    But, to speak realistically (as I too work here and try my best to avoid the catered food), pretty much everything they serve is prepared in a way that makes it unhealthy; cooked in oils and butters, smothered in cheese, soups made with full-fat stocks, etc. etc. So, what I’ve told myself over and over again is that it comes down to portion sizes. Anything is fine in moderation.

    Of course this is just a suggestion that I share humbly, but since those lunches are so hard to navigate on a healthy diet, I figure it’s worth throwing my two cents in.

    I’m glad to see you’re happy with your progress thus far. Good luck in the future!

    • It’s a good question, and it probably has more to do with my own specific issues, and the lunches that are available. I’m generally not that tempted by the cheesy, creamier foods – I like them, but I’m not in the habit of having them, and I don’t really have to exert that much willpower to avoid them. So when I think about what tempts me at the trough lunch buffet, it’s generally the various meat dishes, french fries, etc. When those are removed, it’s mostly salads, grilled vegetables, and so on. By themselves, these won’t tempt me to even go to the lunch line, so I end up with the PB&J I bring myself, some seltzer, and maybe some fruit salad.

      As for portion sizes, I totally agree – at dinner, we use salad plates instead of dinner plates, and I’ve started restricting myself to one serving of each item (which I generally cook from scratch, so can control the ingredients). Afterwards, I immediately bus my plate. This has already made a huge difference in controlling volume.

      Anyway, thank you for writing – I appreciate both the specific points, as well as the encouragement!

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