Nutritional Habits and The Ripple Effect Second Blog Post By Luke Anthony Hobson (Ed.D. ABD)

Welcome back to another edition of Luke attempting to blog! First thing is first, all I have to say is “wow!” I did not imagine that anyone would read a blog written by a guy who was sleep deprived and over caffeinated because his cat decided to have a meowing contest with herself at 2, 3, 4, AND 5 AM. However, 700 people viewed the page with my ranting on how society leaves out behavior change when it comes to fitness and its driving me up a wall. I was blown away from messages of support and how that first post has already changed the way others think entirely when it comes to their health. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find it here:

So thank you for reading my ramblings and for supporting me in this new journey. Now its time for me to sip on some coffee, crank up my Taylor Swift cover songs, and bust out some more words to really make you think about your health and how to lose weight effectively.

Common Sense

You might be wondering what inspired me to start writing down my techniques when it comes to losing weight. Well, I’ll tell you. What inspired me to become the latest keyboard warrior on the topic of fat loss are the stories I hear from people who I see on a daily basis. I work for a wonderful organization filled with incredibly intelligent and talented people, yet I hear stories constantly on the struggles to lose weight. My friends and colleagues (and just people in general) are enamored with so much information today that you don’t know what to believe. The craziest part about it all? People know what to do to lose weight because its common sense. You do not need your Ph.D. to understand how to drop the pounds. Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you right now:

Drinking Coke everyday will make you gain weight. You should be drinking water instead if you want to lose body fat.

I’ll just assume that everyone read that and was like, “Well, no shit.” Everyone (presumably) knows that Coke is a sugary carbonated calorie bomb while water has zero calories. Hell, even Coca-Cola knows that (what up Coke Zero). So it’s not uncommon to find this advice from fitness gurus, online fitness page creators, diet book authors, and more. So with this common sense advice in hand, people every now and again will rush out to buy fancy water bottles with a goal of finally replacing their signature caloric filled drink of choice with water. What happens 99% of the time? Most quit after a few days or weeks and they go back to buying their pick-me-up kind of sugar drink in the morning. Maybe... just maybe... quitting something cold turkey is not the way to go.

Going Cold Turkey

Fitness experts across the board always recommend that people who start trying to eat healthy go cold turkey when it comes to throwing out the junk food. There are some people in the fitness industry that I deeply, deeply respect and I still can’t agree with this logic of going cold turkey. I’ve seen far too many people fail at a task by choosing this method.

Case and point, think of a friend who tried to quit smoking going cold turkey. Chances are this person made a great effort in trying to quit, but caved in. I guaranteed this person didn’t say, “Ya know, smoking isn’t that bad for me. I think I’ll start doing it again!” Of course, smoking is incredibly serious and deadly over time. What realistically happened is that a situation, peer pressure, or losing a routine made this person want to go back to smoking (not to mention the addicting chemicals). I have a buddy who has tried to quit smoking numerous times, but the reason he kept going back is because his friends all smoke and he felt left out of his group. It’s this type of fixation, emotional attachment, and addiction with a product that keeps consumers coming back for more. So what on earth does quitting cold turkey with smoking have to do with your nutrition? Am I implying that foods and drinks are addicting in nature and that they are hard to quit on? I’m so glad you asked…

Reflection

Lets go back to the rocket science, no shit expert advice of “stop drinking Coke and drink water to lose body fat.” Don’t you think its odd that someone can just expect you to give up something entirely and just assume that this won’t impact your day? Don’t you think it’s strange that this fitness expert doesn’t want to learn why you picked up the habit of consuming the product in the first place? What are they missing here? Reflection. Reflection is important people! Reflect upon your past experiences and figure out how the habit developed to where it stands today. So lets change the advice around to be more like a thought provoking question like this, “Before you drastically change the routine you know of day in and day out, why do you drink Coke (Monster, Starbucks, Red Bull, whatever)?”

I would probably hear answers to something of this extent:

  1. I’ve always started my day with a Coke. Without it, I feel like I can’t begin my work.
  2. I need the caffeine to keep me awake before my meetings.
  3. Coke is a reward for me for getting through another day of difficult tasks.
  4. Its built into my routine so much so that I don’t even think twice about it. I just do it.

So when you listen to the advice of “I want you to quit cold turkey on your pick-me-up drink,” what you are really getting for advice is something like this:

  1. Throw off the way you start your day and suffer through your shift as the clock somehow goes backwards instead of forwards.
  2. Go to your meeting feeling sluggish and fall asleep on the desk. #Productivity
  3. You don’t need a reward for being an adult. Suck it up cupcake.
  4. Change your entire routine all at once cause that’s totally sustainable.

Well….. no wonder why people quit on their nutrition! Without even realizing it, changing one thing impacts the rest of your day because you have built this type of emotional attachment to a certain kind of drink or food. I call this, the ripple effect. Changing a part of your already solidified routine will ripple through the rest of your day, resulting in someone more likely to just say screw it. You won’t realize this until you experience it first hand and you don’t have your afternoon pick-me-up sugar bomb coffee. Trust me, I have tried quitting everything before cold turkey and it is pure hell. It is only until you give it up that you realize how dependent you are on the drink or food to get you through the day. However, you know that this drink or food is negatively impacting your health so you get to weigh out the pros and cons and settle with your choice. Or… you could listen to me on how to properly change up your nutrition without train wrecking your fixations, emotional attachments, and your behaviors.

For an example of this, let’s go back to our buddy, Rob, from the first blog post. Rob gets to work everyday and orders himself a large caramel macchiato coffee with milk and sugar. Without his coffee, he is a walking corpse and can’t function. After his coffee, he feels rejuvenated and like a new person walking on clouds. In the late afternoon, he starts to get tired after eating lunch and decides that a large Coke is the best way to wake himself up. After his shift at work, he has to go do errands and school work so he drinks a Red Bull on the way home. While this form of caffeinating his face off has kept him functioning as a human being, he has gained weight and wants to cut back on the pick-me-up drinks.

Small Steps,Caloric Reductions, and Science

If I were to give advice to Rob on how to change his behavior with his drinking habits, I would certainly not say that the first he should do is pound a gallon of water a day. What I would ideally like him to do would be to take small incremental changes that overtime will impact his health in a huge way. Instead of going cold turkey on his drinks, he should cut down on the size of his drinks. Instead of getting a large coffee, get a small. Instead of drinking the full bottle of Coke, only drink half and then save the rest for tomorrow. It’s these small changes at first that will allow for realistic change in his behavior. What Rob will most likely notice is that it’s the smell and taste of the first sip of that drink that triggers his emotions that tell him he can make it through the day. Not only that, he is reducing the amount of calories by not drinking the entire thing all in one sitting and saving money.

After a week or two of ordering smaller versions of his drinks, he can then move on to modifying the drinks. Instead of getting a normal Coke and Red Bull, he can get a diet Coke and a sugar free Red Bull. He can also swap out the syrup filled Starbucks drink with black coffee and stevia. This would make Rob lose even more weight and quite honestly, if he stopped here in the steps, he may be perfectly happy with his appearance in a few weeks. Just by reducing the drinks we mentioned, he is saving 500 calories a day or 3,500 calories within a whole week. Now before your bullshit meter goes off the charts because I’m saying that a diet drink version can help someone lose weight, you should know that more and more studies are being published saying that if someone goes from consuming soda to diet soda instead of going from consuming soda to water will allow them to lose more weight. Lets recap since I feel that this is important:

  • Soda to diet soda = sustainability and weight loss
  • Soda to only water = less sustainability and less weight loss

AKA don’t go cold turkey on what you do now, be sure to adapt to an appropriate change of behavior over time. Obviously, water is a better choice for losing weight compared to just drinking diet soda, but when someone is coming from a standpoint of consuming a significant amount of soda a day, diet soda is the way to begin the behavior change process. Rob’s sweet tooth will be met, meaning his emotional attachments and routines will still be in check, therefore, allowing him to continue to sustain his new behavior instead of reverting back to his old ways. Hooray for science!

Going the Distance

Now, if Rob wanted to push the envelope and go for the gold, he could start eliminating one of his carbonated drinks a day with a flavored sparkling water option. After a few weeks, he could switch from sparkling water to sugar free flavored water and to then eventually, drinking a decent amount of normal water while having his occasional drink.

His new drinking behavior would look something like this:

  • Week 1: Drink normally
  • Weeks 2-3: Cut back to half on normal drinks
  • Weeks 4-5: Replace normal drinks with diet and sugar free options
  • Weeks 6-7: Replace diet options with sugar free sparkling water
  • Weeks 8-9: Replace sparkling water with sugar free flavored water and regular water

THIS IS THE PROPER WAY TO ELIMINATE SOMETHING UNHEALTHY FROM YOUR NUTRITION. The above steps are exactly what I had to do to wean myself off of Red Bull since I singlehandedly put the CEO’s kids through college (sigh) and I firmly believe that I was addicted to Red Bull. I couldn’t make it through my day without drinking two of these caffeine concoctions every day. Fast-forward to now; I drink a gallon of water a day without even thinking about it because I changed my routines over time. Anyway, this also doesn’t have to be a drink. It can absolutely be a food. For example, eating 3 slices of Domino’s pizza a day, to weaning down to 1 slice a day, to buying a healthier brand of pizza from in the frozen sections of grocery stores, to eventually, making your own pizza with hand selected ingredients. Removing a food or drink and substituting it with something healthier will lead to achieving a long term goal over a realistic period of time.

Lesson Learned

If you are to take away anything from the second edition of my learning science based ramblings, remember that when you change one part of your routine, you have to be cognizant of the fact that it will have a ripple effect. Sometimes, the ripple effect can be positive. For instance, adding exercising into your routine will lead to weight loss, more energy, and more positive vibes because getting off your butt and doing something makes your brain release chemicals to fight depression and stress. Good stuff! On the flip side, negative ripple effects can happen if you eliminate a part of a routine (giving up a food or drink) that you are emotionally attached too. You have to be smart in how you change your behavior. So at the end of the day, the next time you receive advice that says don’t do X and instead do Y, think of every step of how that will impact your sustainability and what the steps include. Envision a long term goal and plan because cutting something immediately right out of your life is not always the best solution. There you go people. Another method on changing your behavior to conquer your goals.

If you like what I write, please feel free to share my blog postings! Losing weight should not be some overly complicated process. This information is something that took me years to learn by myself and if it can help someone else, then I'll continue to write.

Have a suggestion on a topic you want me to write about? Email me at lukeanthonyhobson@gmail.com or send me a message on FB. Cheers!

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