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My January 2011 Health Month plan

Every year for the past 5 or so years my friends and I have adopted a rather strict set of rules to follow every January, and we called it Health Month.  Here’s the old Facebook page and a rather hotly-debated Livejournal post from a couple years ago about it all. Sounds familiar, right?

I’ve been thinking of ways to “gamify” Health Month for a couple years.  It was the Livejournal post above in fact that made me realize that the rigidity of the rules was, while a great simplifier, also a fatal flaw of the whole endeavor.  Thus, the more flexible and personal rule-selection process of healthmonth.com was born (slowly, over a couple years).

This year, I’ve decided to get most of my health month inspiration from Tim Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Body, which I gobbled up on a plane the day it was released.

For those interested in following, here’s my plan.

Beginning of the month:

  1. Get starting weight
  2. Get starting body fat percentage with calipers (too poor to go use the $250 DEXA scan at the moment)
  3. Measure my waist, arms, legs, etc to get a baseline
  4. Take “before” pictures (front and side).  Look as fat and gross as possible.

Wake up ritual:

  1. Weigh myself
  2. 1 hard boiled egg (5g protein)
  3. Protein powder shake (20g protein)
  4. 4 glasses of water
  5. Coffee with cinnamon or green tea
  6. Multivitamin
  7. AGG (alpha-lipoic acid, green tea flavanols, garlic extract)
  8. Fish oil (omega 3s)
  9. Vitamin D

Exercise Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday after breakfast (consider checking out CrossFit)

Lunch and dinner:

  1. Try to repeat the same simple, cheap meals as much as possible
  2. No white carbs (including brown rice)
  3. Don’t drink calories (no milk, soy milk, soft drinks, or fruit juice. 1 coffee & 1 glass of red wine per day is okay)
  4. Nothing with lactose or added sugar
  5. AGG supplements (alpha-lipoic acid, green tea flavanols, garlic extract)
  6. Take a picture of everything I eat or drink (post to new Posterous blog)
  7. 20 air squats or push ups right before and 60 minutes after meal

Cheat day: Break any/all of the diet rules every Friday.

Before bed:

  1. Glass of red wine (optional)
  2. Policosanol (good for cholesterol)

End of the month:

  1. Get ending weight
  2. Get ending body fat percentage
  3. Measure my waist, arms, legs, etc, subtract the starting total
  4. Take “after” pictures (doubt there will be any difference but why not?)

To see this translated into Health Month rules, check out my profile page.

What’s my goal with all of this?  I just looked back and realized I weigh 15 lbs more than I did last year!  That’s not cool.  So, I want to lose some weight, of course, because that’s definitely not muscle that I gained.  20 lbs by the middle of 2011 is my goal, though I can gain some of that back if I do it via muscle (hence the body fat tracking).  Gain 10 lbs of muscle, lose 20 lbs of fat… that also works and seems like a fair trade for a rather specific set of rules.

Back in 2003 I did this experiment with myself called Mecember where I attempted to gain 5 lbs and then lose 5 lbs, just to give myself a tangible sense of the amount of “work” it would take to go in either direction.  It was a great exercise, and pretty much won me over as a dedicated self-tracker.  From it, I realized on a very deep level that the more I understand the link between what I eat, drink, do, etc and how I feel, how healthy I am, etc the better.  It’s time for a little reminder, I think.

The only way to really figure out health is to test out the theories on yourself.  How best to “play” health is a highly personal adventure, and endlessly fascinating to me.  I’m excited to see what I learn from this next round.

25 Responses to “My January 2011 Health Month plan”

  1. Just a heads up: one egg has about 5g of protein, not 20.

    I’m interesting to see how Ferriss’ techniques work for you. The P|AGG stuff seems fishy, but have no doubt that his ‘slow carb’ diet will provide excellent results.

    I’ve decided that a DXA scan is probably overkill — calipers and my Withings scale give me a pretty good idea of changes over time, even if not completely accurate. I’m interested in other types of diagnostic data — eyeing the Zeo sleep monitor right now (sleep quality is my big issue lately…)

  2. I’m going to try this for one week: http://www.goop.com/newsletter/15/en/. Can I participate in Health Week instead of Health Month? I’ll register that url for you! Good luck Buster!

  3. Ben, thanks for that correction. That makes a lot more sense.

    I’m doing calipers + withings as well. Those calipers look complicated though… have you used them before?

    Jana, GOOP looks pretty. Let me know how it goes! And yeah, I’ll buy the domain off of you after you mark it up a lot.

  4. The calipers are easy enough … Accu-Measure.

    I generally just do a single measurement, but for higher accuracy you can do multiple measurements from multiple areas of the body — record the skinfold measurements for tracking purposes.

    You can plug into one of the formulas later to determine bf%.

    I’ve been disappointed in the BF measurements coming out of the Withings — wild variances from day to day (under the same general circumstances) compared with my old Tanita. Just having wet feet can cause a 2 point change in % with the Withings (2 points *lower*, which means I always try to measure with wet feet! ;-)

  5. I have the same disappointment in the body fat on withings. I had a Tanita before too and regret tossing it out in the excitement of getting a tweeting scale.

  6. Is the goal of this month mostly to lose weight, or mostly to gain muscle?
    Does Ferris tell you to take protein powder in the morning and then work out after breakfast? Sounds like a recipe for barfing. I hate my protein powder but I take it after working out and then immediately eat lunch to both clean the taste out of my mouth and keep me from getting light-headed and nauseous.

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  8. I decided not to use stuff like supplements or even protein powder and just going with the food :)
    Couple of eggs, lots of beans, occasional meat should provide those 30 g of protein for breakfast.

    It’s actually a little bit of a problem for me, since for last 3 years I was a lacto-ovo-vegetarian and while I don’t really have neither medical or ethical reasons for not eating meat, it became a habit and now I will have to break (or at least postpone) it, since without meat I will have to rely on protein supplements which I really don’t want to do.

  9. @ Camille – try the protein from Poliquin. It’s super pure and you can mix with water. It’s really thin and not thick like most others. It has a slight vanilla flavor. I mix it with either the primal reds (basically a red fruit powder) or primal greens (green veg powder). I take it durning every workout with 15 branch chain amino acid caps and I never get an upset stomach.

    On cheat days I mix it with berries, Greek yogurt and ice for an awesome breakfast boost after my eggs and greens. Or even a skinny cow low fat ice-cream sandwich, almond milk and 5 whole strawberries. All in the magic bullet blender for a great cheat day snack. Awesome. The Poliquin Protien is great for mixing since it’s so pure. I’ve also been known to mix it with a Starbucks Via packet, ice and almond milk for a coffee – protein smoothie. check it out.

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