I have a hard time with routines. While I am fully capable of establishing a routine, my mind wants more freedom. When it comes to my health, the routines have been the most difficult. Throughout college I hovered around 220-235 pounds. During periods of high stress my weight would increase, but I was always able to offset any major weight gain by working out and playing basketball on a consistent basis. I grew frustrated though. The constant exercise resulted in little to no weight loss.
As we were closing in on making “Jerry,” I made establishing a routine a goal, both for my health and to a greater extent, as a motivating factor to build better stamina for the long production. At the time I had been reading a lot about developing good habits and the one piece of advice that stuck out to me was to commit oneself to a two week regimen of whatever you were trying to accomplish.
Growing up I was stingy about my food in the worst way. I liked meat and while I would often eat a salad for dinner, I would begrudge my mom if she tried to force broccoli or cauliflower or spinach or really most any vegetable. In college, I didn’t fare much better. Some nights I would get a 14” pizza and eat it myself – the memory now leaves me both a little queasy and nostalgic. I love food!
So when the time came to rework my habits, I told myself to commit to eating healthy for two weeks; vegetables with every dish, wheat bread instead of white bread, and cut out fried foods in favor of grilled or roasted.
The goal of the two-week schedule was to build muscle memory. I compare it to learning how to drive. At first you get in the car and there’s typically a level of discomfort, a general tightness in your hands and feet. As you do it each day the muscle memory begins to take over and after a period of time, the mind begins to memorize the task. Once it’s committed to memory it becomes more and more unconscious.
So I told myself to keep eating vegetables everyday and not just ones I knew I would find amenable, but ones I absolutely hated (my new friends cauliflower, spinach and mushrooms all suffered such classifications).
I remember being out with my parents for dinner after about a month of engaging the process. I ordered a steak that came with vegetables. With each bite of steak I would have some vegetables. At one point I tried the steak by itself and it didn’t taste good to me. It was missing the vegetables. A light went off in my brain that night.
In five months I went from weighing 235 pounds to 185. In the last few years I’ve managed to keep my weight between 185-190. Even during periods where I don’t exercise as much, the weight stayed off.
Previous to making this change, my bowel movements were not a pleasant experience. I had become accustomed to all manners of shit, to the point that I hated shitting and I think, it even psychologically hindered my ability to have consistent bowel movements. The routine of eating vegetables and introducing fiber as a regular part of my diet remedied that situation almost instantly. By a wide margin, that has been the best part of changing my habits.
The one problem I’ve had over the years is keeping the routine consistent. I find my body reacts much more powerfully to constants in my dietary habits then it does if I keep varying up the meals. My eating routine looks like this right now:
Morning: Bowl of cereal (usually cheerios)
Afternoon: Egg sandwich on whole grain wheat bread with one slice of cheese
Early Evening: Granola Bar
Dinner: Grilled Chicken w/Pasta and Broccoli, Corn, Green Beans and Peas
Keeping to that routine not only simplifies my day, but I have found my mental state and energy level are more constant and most importantly, my bowel movements are consistent and predictable. Every day at around noon my toilet gets a little fiber bomb on special delivery.
I will often want to mix or change up my meals and I do that on a discretionary basis – sometimes the routine becomes monotonous and that begins to take its own kind of mental toll. But in my experience, the more consistent I am with my food, the better results I get.
Routine is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment. The mental strain can be very taxing, but inevitably it gives back everything you put in and more. If you’re like me and you have a personality that enjoys the freedom of randomness, but want to find a healthier lifestyle, try committing to something simple for two weeks. Remind yourself every day that you’re building muscle memory. Eventually your muscles will grow strong and you’ll be the beneficiary of the work.
Hit me up on witter with your own health stories @TheAlexRock
Sign up for our newsletter here and you’ll get our short films, stories, filmmaking updates and more delivered direct to your inbox!