i’m the kind of guy who can easily identify where to make changes in his life, but like so many people, i make excuses. My excuses are very specific, though, and they usually centre on not having the right gear to get the job done. It’s not simply a procrastinating “i’ll do it tomorrow” sentiment, but more of an “i’ll do it tomorrow, so long as i can make it out to the store and buy that thing i need to do it properly.”
This year, thanks to my life falling into a completely predictable schedule, i’ve been developing some much-needed habits that are helping me to lose weight and improve my health. A number of these habits have come about because i’ve been able to amass (what i’ve convinced myself is) the right gear, like the magic feather that “enabled” Dumbo to fly. And i’ll be honest: subscribing to Amazon Prime to put me no more than two days away from nearly Any Product i Can Imagine has helped a lot.
Here is a list of the gizmos and software i’ve been using to improve my life.
Affiliate links ahoy! If you click through and buy some of these things, i may earn fractions of pennies. Capitalism, ho!
iPhone, MyFitnessPal, and Fitbit
This is the Holy Trinity of weight loss tools. MyFitnessPal is for tracking calories, while the Fitbit bracelet tracks sleep patterns, heart rate, and daily activity. The two apps sync up on my iPhone, which is crucial functionality, because having those additional exercise calories added to your daily allowance gives you a much more complete picture of energy in/energy out, and keeps you from starving yourself.
Charge Block and Cable
These are both part of the phone, sure. But i mentioned in an earlier post that i have fallen off the calorie-counting wagon for want of a fully-charged phone, and by the time i’ve finished bumming a cable from my wife, i’ve often forgotten what i ate just hours earlier. This cable and block are plugged in right next to my bed. My new habit, now fully gelled, is to plug the phone in every night, so that i have enough juice to get me through the next day.
i’m not sure how, but in some scientific hoodoo way, sleep plays an important role in health and fitness. i think it has something to do with a fat-gaining hormone that gets released when you have high stress and lousy sleep (why, o Lord, didst thou create both sharks and fat-gaining hormones?)
The last bed we owned was the one on which my wife heroically pumped out both of our children, so as you can imagine, it had seen some shit. It also had to put up with my fat ass sleeping on it for over a decade, and was shaped vaguely like a taco shell by the time we were done with it.
Decent beds are very expensive, so we bought a half-decent one. We also upgraded from a queen to a king, resulting in far fewer nocturnal elbows to the face. We spared no expense on the pillows. Then i broke two successive bed frames in as many months just by sitting down on the bed (you know it’s time to lose weight when…), so the new bed and box spring are now both on the floor. But the floor provides unparalleled support, let me tell ya.
Fitbit tracks your sleep by marking a blue tick on a graph whenever you toss and turn significantly, or a pink tick whenever you wake up completely (or find yourself furiously masturbating at four in the morning. There is no separately-coloured tick for this). You end up with a computer-generated explanation for “why do i feel so shitty?” the moment you finally wake up in the morning.
Jammy Pants with Pockets
i’ll readily admit that pants are the bane of my existence, and i jump at every opportunity to take them off. (Well … maybe not “jump.” That sounds altogether too exercisey.) i work from home three days a week, free from the tyranny of pants. Because of this, my jammies suffer a lot of wear and tear throughout the year.
By the time Christmas rolled around, my jammy pants were torn to ribbons (like the Incredible Hulk’s jean shorts, except uh … not due to muscle), so i would exist mostly in my undies. i’m going to let that tantalizing image sink in. If you need a moment, i understand.
This brought the unexpected, and unwanted, effect of being unable to carry my phone with me around the house, particularly when transporting hot dishes full of food from kitchen to basement couch. It seems like a really dumb thing, and it is, but receiving two new pairs of jammy pants at Christmas, each equipped with phone-holding pockets, kept me entering my calories regularly and honestly because the device was always close at hand. (And by “the device,” i mean the iPhone, you absolute pervs.)
My motivation to get out of bed every morning is not that i get to live another day, but that i get to weigh myself. Some people like to brag about how their bodies crave exercise. That’s not me AT ALL, but i do crave landing a video game-like streak of data recording on the reg. i weigh myself every single day, and i even brought the device on vacation a few weeks ago. It’s not one of those fancy bluetooth scales that syncs with the app. i punch the number into MyFitnessPal manually, which i think makes me more mindful of the number.
(And before you naysay by recommending against weighing myself daily, i’m sorry to say that science backs me up on this one)
MyFitnessPal is much better than it used to be a few years ago, largely because the app has taken off and their database is jam-packed with user-entered meal info. Still, every so often you run into situations where what you’re eating isn’t in the database, or the serving size is expressed in grams or ounces, and you’re really bad at estimating. (Like anything, it gets easier the more you do it.) That’s when it helps to weigh your food out on a little kitchen scale to get a better idea of exactly what you’re eating.
i’ve gone on and on about this little wonder, and for good reason: i’ll fully admit that i’m no chef, and i resent the vast amount of my life i’m required to devote to food prep, eating, and cleanup. With the Instant Pot, you dump a bunch of stuff in, seal the lid, and walk away for x minutes. When the device chimes, you return to find something delicious inside – usually cooked in a fraction of the time, or at least having required zero babysitting, unlike stovetop and oven meals.
These pretty little bowls were a completely unnecessary and self-indulgent purchase. But they make me feel like a real chef! (who dumps fastidiously-measured ingredients into an electric pot and walks away.)
Often, you gotta chop a bunch of things up for a recipe, and that cutting board gets crowded. The garlic, especially, gets lots in the fray. i love having these cute little bowls to hold small amounts of ingredients that i can dump into my magic robot pot when the time comes.
Facebook and ryancreighton.com
My very first attempt at habit-forming was treating Facebook as a sort of confessional. i was very aware that every week, my family was eating a horrid amount of junk food and takeout. So every Sunday, i started listing what we ate for dinner every night the previous week, partly to stay mindful, partly as a cry for help to find good, healthy recipes that were tasty and easy to make, and partly to embarrass myself into cooking more dinners for my family.
It worked a treat! And it led to one of my Facebook friends recommending the Instant Pot, which was a true Love Connection (with your host, Chuck Woolery). i know in my heart of hearts that no one on Facebook really cares about what i’m eating (although i tried to duck out of it one week, and a few of my friends asked why i hadn’t posted a food diary). And i didn’t end up getting the recipe advice i was hoping for (nearly every recipe anyone recommended was packed with either booze or fish, two verboten ingredients in my household). So i’m trying to turn it around and be the change i want to see, by recommending recipes for other people to try (provided they own an Instant Pot 😉 )
A used LiveStrong treadmill was one of the very first purchases i made when we moved to the new house. Later that year, i enlisted my step-father-in-law’s help in mounting a television directly in front of it, because who are we kidding? i know what i’m about, son.
Finally, that effort is paying off, as my wife and i begin to use the thing more consistently. Just last night, i wanted to hit 10k steps on my Fitbit, but i was only at 6000. No biggie. i just jacked my phone into the convenient HDMI adapter, turned on the show i had been watching, and hit ten thousand before the episode was even over.
The treadmill has been a vital tool in helping me achieve Fitbit’s prescribed 250+ steps per hour, an antidote to too much sitting. Those 250+ steps an hour have, in turn, been vital to achieving 10k steps a day, which various heart and stroke agencies recommend to keep you from lowering your country’s average life expectancy. By the time i’ve treadmilled through 250+ steps (which takes about 2 minutes each hour), i’m halfway to that 10k goal. It’s math!
i picked up a Weider bench and 260 pounds of some 80’s-ass weights on Kijiji a while back for a cool hundred bucks. i haaaaaaaate resistance training, but i know it’s going to be a crucial tool in my expanding and figurative utility belt (even as my literal belt contracts, if you take my meaning). After a recent visit to the doctor, during which he prescribed lifting weights three times a week to protect my range of motion from this bone-stiffening autoimmune disease i have, i’ve only just started to use this equipment more. Using the bench is going to be a really difficult habit to form, but i’ll work on it.
These are the Canadian equivalent of an unfortunately-named American product called Hickies, which are essentially elastic bungee cords that replace your shoelaces, so that you can slip your sneakers on and off without tying them up. Tying shoes can be difficult for fat, inflexible people, because we have extra material around our middles, which makes it difficult to breathe when we’re bent over, and because we’ve always got a goddamned piece of fried chicken in our greasy mouths, which also hampers respiration.
One of my EZLaces clasps snapped while i was trying to clamp my lace ends, but i can still use the shoes as intended. They pull on and off pretty easily — much more quickly than they do when i have to tie them. It feels better to walk on the treadmill with sneakers, but i still prefer
Awww yeah. Flip flops: the jogging pants of footwear. My wife helped me rediscover these babies in the back of the closet. i can slip them on every hour, walk my 250+ steps on the treadmill, and then easily release my feet from their little plastic prisons. A++ solid buy.
Here’s one device that i ordered on Amazon to help me build a good habit, but it hasn’t proved very useful yet. The idea was that eating chips is a pain in the ass when you’re counting calories, because the serving sizes are expressed per chip. So i sit there and eat, trying to keep count of how many i’ve stuffed in my mouth. The problem is that sometimes, the things that are happening on the teevee are so exciting that i lose count.
i thought that with the tally counter, i could simply push a button every time i ate a potato chip, to ensure that i was eating the proper amount. My wife made fun of me for it. When she eats chips, she uses the kitchen scale (see above) to actually weigh out 50 grams, because it allows for unfettered eating (by the chip, or by the handful), and because chips vary so much in size, eating according to chip count is wildly inaccurate.
The bigger problem with eating chips, of course, is that the little bastards are massively calorie-dense. A better plan than amassing tools to help me eat chips is to not eat chips. i’m not a big fan of cutting things out of my diet (because that’s when i go mad with rebellion and eat a bazillionty of them), but of all the things i’ve tracked in the past few months, potato chips have to be the biggest not-worth-it snack i’ve encountered. 50 grams is not a lot of chips. As a snack, they’re not filling, and the calorie count is enormous. And you’re unlikely to stop at 50 grams. As the slogan goes, “Betcha can’t eat just one … family-sized bag, you fat fucking hog.” i can think of better, more delicious ways to spend my calorie allowance.
i’ve explained in another entry how i use Google Drive every Sunday to save links to the recipes i plan to make, keep a list of shopping items from those recipes, and relegate old links to sections labelled “Keepers,” “Meh,” and “Never Again.” Drive is nice because i can do the heavy planning on my laptop (which still takes hours, mind you), and then my wife and i can each open the Google Doc up on our respective phones (see above) at the supermarket.
Nobody ever said getting healthy was cheap, and i’m like the Batman of weight loss: i have no innate abilities, but i’ll throw money at the problem until i beat the snot out of it with expensive gadgets.
i am the round darkness. i am the chubby knight.
… i’m Fatman.