Sunday, January 17, 2016

Plant-Based Lifestyle

So a friend came up to me recently and asked me how I did it. It, you ask? The implied question really was on multiple levels. The first implied question was how did I lose the weight that I've lost, was it really only diet and which one. The second implied question was about my diet and how I stay plant strong, plant perfect or what have you. At the time I answered it well I think but upon thinking about it could have put more thought into answer better.

This post will attempt to describe what has really made me successful up til now - and hopefully out into the future.

The process is :

Set the Intention, Make a Commitment
Plan and Prepare
Go Full Bore for A Short Period
Step Back and Review
Decide What's Next
Make it Stick

Looking at that list, it is strikingly similar to the Scrum Events of Sprint Planning -> Sprint with Daily Stand Ups (execute) -> Sprint Review -> Sprint Retrospective -> Repeat.


When I answered my colleague in the hallway conversation, I said I was able to do it via diet. When I say diet I don't mean as going on a diet that restricts calories or a fad weight loss diet. I meant much more than that, I meant I changed my dietary lifestyle altogether. Executing on that lifestyle change is something that takes time and commitment. Your choice to make that change can't be superficial or for superficial reasons. The desire to change has to be genuine, from the heart and soul. And it still isn't necessarily easy, but you have to start "all in".

Also, by being all in changes failures into bumps along the way, something to work on and get better at - not a defining moment but hiccup. "all in" removes the stress of time-based deadlines. It is just something you do, a state you are in. Anything outside of that is just a blip. In other words it allows you some wiggle room to be human and not perfect.

Plan and Prepare

Easy enough to say but we all know you don't just make a decision to be all in that solves everything. It is just the starting point. You need to plan for the change and prepare for it.

I made the decision to make a change, even though I didn't know exactly what is was going to be, in early to mid-summer of 2014. I didn't actually make the full change until October of 2014, several months later.

The time in between was when I began educating myself, learning as much as I could from documentaries and reading articles and information on the internet. In late August I selected the Engine2 Diet 28 Day Challenge. I decided to do that specific challenge but set the start date to be in October. Between then and the start of the challenge I learned to cook the meals, got rid of food products in the house I wasn't going to use, reached out to the Wellness center at work and got my blood work done and appointments for doing blood work at the end of the challenge. I also scheduled the 28 day challenge to end just before Thanksgiving so that if I really wanted to jump back into my old diet I'd have the perfect excuse to eat a lot of food. In short, I let myself get mentally, physically and emotionally ready to make the change.

Execute with Focus

At Agile conference I attended I learned of the Shu-Ha-Ri (守 破 離) concept. It comes from Japan and is used there as one way to describe the master-disciple relationship. Shu represents doing what you are told and how to do it. Ha is the ability to break down and analyse those teachings and improve upon them. The Ri part is the stage at which the disciple is able to create their own methods. My execute with focus phase is Shu. This is where you follow all the rules strictly. For me, this is why a challenge was useful because it defined the rules for me and put it in a timebox. I knew it was going to end so I could keep focused for the present.

I went at it with everything I had for that 28 Days and followed the rules. I will not lie for those 28 days I didn't really think about much else even while I was at work. It was not easy at first, but got easier as the challenge went on. So I had no processed food, no oils, no meat, no dairy, avoided added sugar and salt. I exercised even trying some of the calisthenics described by Rip Esselstyn. (started both Spinning and Yoga during this time). And I ate mindfully without distraction by not watching TV while eating. I also largely maintained not eating after 8pm. I would also wait for 15 minutes after eating before I ate anything else I hadn't prepared for dinner.

I added a couple of those rules I think but they may have been part of it. Either way removing distractions during meal helps you slow down and focus on what you are eating, the tastes and textures of foods, how much you are eating and how full you are. Waiting the 15 minutes really helps since it gives your body time to catch up with your eating:

...feeling full is a result of your brain reacting to chemicals released when you put food or drink in your stomach. Your brain takes around 20 minutes to register these chemicals. After your meal, the levels continue to rise over 10 to 30 minutes. --Source: SFGate

And it got easier to do over the 28 days, particularly when it was clear I was losing weight, feeling better with more energy.

Step Back and Review

Like I said, prior to starting the challenge I had set an appointment with the Wellness Center to do my blood work so I had hard data on the impact the challenge had to me. I also thought back over the challenge and about how I felt over time. As time went on I felt better, more energetic and was just more optimistic about life in general. I even allowed myself a step back and had some meat and dairy and thought about how those made me feel. I also considered how difficult it was to do the challenge and what parts I'd rather not keep doing.

Make A Decision

So this is where I started the Ha process. I tweaked the process and made it to meet what I wanted. This is where I defined myself as Plant Strong "ish". The "ish" allowing me to have the occasional meat, dairy, or process food. It is also when I decided that I really enjoyed yoga and that would be a focus for me. I made the decision. More importantly, I included everything I learned, including "objective" data (biometrics) and "subjective" data (how I felt, etc) and made the decision to live this way permanently.

Make It Stick

I believe that many people who come up to me to ask how I did it (lose the weight), this is what they are really asking. How can I not go back? To many this seems the hard part. Anything but, it is the easy part. Once you have done the steps above you have already done the hard part, you have already made the change.

I defined myself as plant strong "ish" at that point and decided to continue with the Whole Foods, Plant Based No Oil diet. And that is an accurate description of my dietary lifestyle. In fact over time I have even gotten "stricter". For example, the "ish" allowed me to use the dairy milk at work if I ran out of my non-dairy milk. I did that for months, but I decided I didn't like that and will now go to the grocery story and buy non-dairy milk and take it back to work. I also had envisioned having meat every now and again like at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hasn't happened, just not interested. I ask for no cheese on the veggie burgers at work - it's almost to the point where I don't have to ask anymore. None of this is work for me, it is how I prefer it. So I'm not "sticking" to it. It's become part of who I am.

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