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Archive for the ‘healthy living’ Category

On workdays I don’t have a lot of time for breakfast. I had gotten into the habit of eating poorly, whether that be grabbing a couple of Pop-Tarts, stopping at a fast food joint for a biscuit (and soda, since I don’t like coffee), or getting a 3-egg omelet from the restaurant downstairs in my office building. Eating is important to getting physically fit and it’s the area I fail the most, which is why I’ve struggled a lot with building fitness and losing weight.

In one of my runner magazines, I saw a suggestion for “summer porridge,” because it was easy, healthy, and something that can be prepared the night before. If you’re not familiar with summer porridge, it’s basically oatmeal that has time to soak the liquid up overnight in the refrigerator, removing the need to cook the oatmeal. Perfect if you have a limited amount of time in the morning. Here’s my simple recipe:

1/3 cup quick cook steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup fruit
1/2 tablespoon honey

Note that all the key ingredients are 1/3 cup. That’s what makes it easy to remember.
I throw the ingredients into a container, mix the ingredients together with a spoon, and then put the porridge into the refrigerator, where it’s waiting until morning. It’s been great! I find the meal refreshing, filling without being too heavy, and I stay full until lunch time. Also, I’m getting real fruit, not fruit juice (which too often has added sugars), I’m getting the oatmeal for fiber, and the yogurt helps with digestion.

Now you may be thinking, “What kind of yogurt?” I did. There are some recipes that say to use Greek yogurt and that if you substitute with regular yogurt, you need to reduce the milk. I am using regular yogurt but I didn’t reduce the milk. For me, it’s the right consistency. For my wife, it’s a little too much liquid, so you’ll likely need to adjust the milk/yogurt amount depending on what type of yogurt and how much liquid you like with your oatmeal.

As for the plain yogurt, I did see recipes that called for vanilla flavored yogurt. In my case, I’m getting enough sweetness through the fruit and the honey. Therefore, I didn’t want the added sugar that you get with flavored yogurt.

That brings me to the last item, which is the fruit. We’re in winter and fresh berries aren’t available where I live. I do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., in my freezer. I have found that if I measure out the 1/3 cup and combine, that by morning the fruit are chilled but no longer frozen. Therefore, I don’t bother trying to defrost them.

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If you’re not familiar with the Nirvana Fallacy, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“the informal fallacy of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives.”

I was looking for this when talking about folks who reject partial solutions because those solutions don’t bring about the perfect situation. However, it extends to a good deal beyond those cases. Basically, you avoid the Nirvana fallacy when you choose to make forward progress, no matter how small the progress.

For instance, you’ve not eaten well all day. You could say to yourself, “Well, the day is wrecked, I might as well eat whatever now.” This is falling into the Nirvana fallacy. You aren’t going to reach the  “I stuck to good eating habits all day” state so you reject what you can actually do to eat right for at least part of the day. For today, eating right 100% of the time is idealized and unrealistic. It’s unachievable. That’s why we typically say to ourselves, “Well, since today is a wash, I’ll just try to do better tomorrow.”

Attacking the fallacy is easy. Instead of lamenting today as lost and promising to do better tomorrow, we can simply choose to do better the rest of the day. It’s not the idealized state. However, it is better than continuing to eat poorly. It is moving forward. Don’t fall into the Nirvana Fallacy, especially with respect to your goals.

 

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Here is where I had a lunch time meeting today:

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It’s another private spot in downtown Columbia, another place to get away. Today’s lunch meeting consisted of an alumni board meeting for my high school alma mater. It was a conference call and it was my first as part of the board. As a result, I wanted to:

  • find a place of privacy.
  • find a place of serenity and quiet.
  • get some sun.
  • steer clear of the office.

The fountain in this location is more prominent and the flowing water is soothing. This particular spot, while in downtown, is located on side streets where there isn’t a lot of traffic. As a result, I was able to focus on the conference call and make good use of the time.

Even when you find private spots, consider what is good and and bad about each one. I could have gone to the spot yesterday, but the amount of background noise would have been in competition with the voices on the phone, even with a headset. This particular spot is slightly less private (more people know about it) but always much quieter, even with people present. That’s why today’s spot was the best place for me to attend my meeting.

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I’m in downtown Columbia, SC. Right behind where I’m sitting is busy Taylor Street and I can hear the cars on the road and construction at a neighboring property.

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While I can hear the noise, there’s no one around me. I have this tucked away garden all to myself. It’s like this every time I’ve been here at lunch. This hidey-hole, and places like it, is where I can get alone and recharge.

To get to this particular spot takes some walking. It’s easy to reach in a lunch hour, still giving me about 30 minutes of privacy. Therefore, coming out here serves two purposes: I get a bit of exercise and I get some alone time. For an introvert, the lunch hour doesn’t get much better than this.

Wherever I am, I try to find spots like these. Often times they are hiding in plain sight. Parks and public gardens like the one I’m in now are usually the first places I investigate. Do you have a quiet, private place to which you can flee? Even if you’re an extrovert, it’s still good to have a couple of such places when you just need to get away.

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Like most folks, there are days when I’m running late in the mornings. Usually, I choose to skip eating breakfast at home. If that’s the case, that usually leaves the following options:

  • Grabbing a fast food meal on the way.
  • Snarfing doughnuts and other unhealthy foods that co-workers typically bring in.

Special K Protein BarNeither of those options are very good ones. Another option is to simply stock up at work. This can be a healthy alternative.

Meal replacement bars are cheap and have a long shelf life. Therefore, you can buy them and store them for a while, grabbing one when needed. With that said, there are some recommendations on what to look for in meal replacement bars, because not all of them are exactly healthy. There is also bottled/canned juice which also tends to have a decent shelf life and provides a fruit or vegetable serving for the day. You can add to that by having fresh fruit at the ready at home and grabbing that on your way out the door.

The key is to be prepared so that you don’t make a poor choice because of a lack of time in the morning.

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In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about each person’s Circle of Concern versus his or her Circle of Influence. The pictures in his book have the circles layered on top of one another, like so:

Stephen Covey's Circles

Here’s what each circle means:

  • Circle of Concern: That which you have interest in.
  • Circle of Influence: That which you can impact in some way.

According to Covey’s model, for most people, the Circle of Concern is the outer circle. What they’re interested in is less than what they can impact. However, for others, the Circle of Influence is actually the outer circle. He indicates that this usually means folks are self-centered. I disagree with the model. Here’s the model I do agree with:

Focus_Venn

Lining up the models:

  • Circle on Concern = What Matters
  • Circle of Influence = What I Can Control

We have influence on things outside of our concern. I can, for instance, influence the type of Pop-Tarts my children will eat, simply by choosing what types to buy. I could force them all into eating Cherry Pop-Tarts, my favorite. However, I’m not concerned about that. Does that make me selfish? Does that make my decision not to be concerned about the type of Pop-Tarts they eat a selfish decision? Hardly.

The reality is that the vast majority of us are juggling a lot of options and choices in life. Some of these choices are as unimportant as my kids’ choice of Pop-Tarts. If one likes Brown Sugar Cinnamon and another likes Hot Fudge Sundae, I’m not going to lose any sleep about their inferior choices (compared to mine, of course). There are plenty of other things that are more important that I’m concerned about and have influence over.

With that said, I agree with Covey’s stance on proactivity versus reactivity. Proactive people tend to grow their Circle of Influence. Reactive people tend to grow their Circle of Concern. Look to be proactive and grow your Circle of Influence/What I Can Control. You want to grow it to intersect as much of your Circle of Concern/What Matters as is possible. This allows you to fulfill more goals in your life and move in the direction you want  for the future. Definitely don’t let fear win and certainly don’t let it grow your Circle of Concern/What Matters. You want to intentionally grow What Matters in your life. You certainly don’t want to start worrying about and caring about things that don’t actually have an impact on you. There’s no reason to add unnecessary anxiety.

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Meditations_AureliusMarcus Aurelius‘ writings are often cited as among the most influential thoughts within the leadership space. As a result, I’m taking my time reading through a translation of his Meditations. He started right off by thanking a group of people who have helped make him the man and emperor that he was by telling the reader what he learned from said person. Here’s what he had to say that he learned his mother:

From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

Aurelius indicated that living simply, unlike the rich patrons he saw around himself, was something worthy of pursuing. This flies in the face of the way we see so many celebrities in our world today living. I’m sure it flew in the face of what was generally believed by the Roman society or Aurelius’ day, which is likely why Aurelius called it out. Actually, everything he said there flies in the face of what is portrayed as “having it made.” His list, broken down:

  • Faith (piety)
  • Being charitable (beneficence)
  • avoiding evil deeds
  • avoiding evil thoughts
  • living simply / plainly

This certainly runs counter to the goal of “partying like a rock star,” doesn’t it? As an emperor he surely could have lived the opposite of all of these points. Other emperors did, both before and after. But that wasn’t Marcus Aurelius’ style. He didn’t need that excess / debauchery. He didn’t see how that allowed him to accomplish what he really wanted out of life and allowed him to live a fulfilled life.

By the way, this isn’t the only reference to living simply and avoiding the trappings of the rich that he gives in the “thank you list.” So if you want to “live like an emperor,” give some thought to Marcus Aurelius’ words.

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