So… this is a tough one for me to write. We all like to think we have things under control, but for a while now I really haven’t had them so. And it all comes down to being a little lazy and a little dishonest with myself. It’s tough to admit when you’ve been lying to yourself.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I started on Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint plan years ago (I wanna say 2008-ish). It had an immediate effect on me: I lost weight, got much more clear-headed, and my mood nearly immediately shifted from sort of depressed to energetic and ready to face the world. Seriously, it was just that dramatic.
That change led me into all sorts of worlds – minimalist running, MovNat, and even into obstacle course racing. It was proof positive to me that no matter what our age, we could turn back the clock if we just put the right stuff into our bodies. We needed to immerse ourselves in conditions as close as possible to those we evolved in!
So what happened?
Yeah, isn’t that always the question?
Over the years, I kept at the whole Paleo template and kept reading more and more. And of course, I came across ideas like the 80-20 rule from the Primal Blueprint, or the reintroduction of non-Whole-30 foods as is part of that plan, etc. And frankly, though my intentions were good, something I didn’t need crept back into my diet on a regular basis:
While I was eating “clean” starches like rice and white potatoes, the fact is that I was taking in a lot more carbs than I needed. And worse, I’d justify my going out to eat so often by ordering the gluten-free options, with rice or potatoes or whatever. And then I started allowing myself cheat days. I wasn’t tracking how often I had a cheat day so I was probably doing them 3-4 times a week, in retrospect.
Discipline was out the door.
And here’s the worst part: as the brain fog slowly started to creep back in, I started to get more depressed again. Not about anything in particular, just a general malaise. It was affecting my relationships with my family, it was having an effect on my work, and it was robbing me of vitality.
Then, something else happened. I got injured.
I have been trying to overcome some elbow issues that I got when I was hammering down on a strict pull-ups regimen. It’s sort of a golfer’s elbow type situation where the insides of my elbows (where your funny bone sticks out) is very painful when I put pressure on them. It was just for strenuous pulling work for a while, but over the past year it was pretty much anything, to the point where I could’t even do push-ups any more.
I found a treatment program for the problem, but I didn’t think I had all the equipment I’d need to do it. And I just kept putting it off.
Finally, I had enough.
I grabbed my computer and put it all down into a couple of journal entries. I slowly but surely stopped vomiting self-hate and bile onto the page and started looking at what had worked for me in the past. And I realized that I wasn’t doing what had worked for me for years: I wasn’t eating Paleo and living an evolutionary lifestyle any more.
I had convinced myself that I was being compliant, because I was eating “safe” carbs like rice and potatoes, but it was all carbs that I didn’t need. They were making me gain weight again (and not in a good way), they were depressing me too much to work out or move much, and they were making me want to avoid people. My sleep was bad, my internal drive was nearly non-existent, and as you probably noticed if you were a regular visitor I hadn’t written here regularly in months. I needed to stop lying to myself and get back on the wagon.
So I did. With a few tools and some willpower, I put myself back into the mindset I had back in 2008 when I started this journey. For the past two weeks, I have been nearly 100% Paleo.
I brought food from home to supplement the salad bar at our office deli: avocados, tinned fish (sardines, anchovies, kippers, the works), and some Primal Kitchen Salad Dressings (I’m a fan of the Greek Dressing, but occasionally I also like the Ranch or Green Goddess as well).
I made time each day to read more at the MovNat website. Their blogs have a ton of work you can do at home and this inspired my ever-evolving morning routine. I’ve added several various ground movements that I cycle through my morning routine each day.
And I’m working to put together some backyard tools for practicing more MovNat techniques in the backyard.
And I figured out what I could do for the elbow issue. I got out my resistance bands and a kettlebell, and took time a few times a week to work on those exercises.
And I’m feeling great. I can literally see the old belly fat coming off. I feel better. I’m more positive and productive. I’m sleeping better. And I’m having more fun with my kids. And my elbows are slowly getting better.
Why Lying to Yourself May Be Worst of All
Lying is never a good thing, that’s for sure.
- It gets you into a ton of trouble if you’re found out.
- Even if you’re not found out, it stresses you out trying to keep track of all the lies.
- It makes those around you lose faith and trust in you.
But I think lying to yourself may be the hardest of all. Living in denial hurts you.
And anything that hurts you hurts everyone around you. You can’t fulfill your responsibilities to your family as well as you should. You get defensive and ornery. You shut down. You start blaming everyone around for your problems.
Admitting it to yourself takes strength and mindfulness. You need to really be able to judge yourself and your actions critically. And you have to be able to learn new stuff and work with that new knowledge. We all know that guy who insists nothing is wrong with him, even though he’s overweight and surly all the time. He won’t admit to himself that he’s got a problem.
It took me a while to recognize that I needed some help. I had to reach out to people around me and tell them that I was having issues and needed their help to get back on track. I had to tell them, even if it was in a light-hearted manner, what I needed to do.
My wife is super-supportive. If I ask her to get me something for dinner while she’s out shopping, and it’s not what she planned for everyone else, she will help me out because she knows it makes me feel better. If I tell her I need to get out and go for a ruck, no sweat. I don’t even have to have an “I’m at the end of my rope” moment, it’s just “hey, could you get me this while you’re out?” and that’s it. I’m very lucky.
But even if you have support from family and friends, you still need to make that decision that you’re going to be honest with yourself. You have to respect your own life and the lives of those around you. And most importantly you have to push the ego aside.
Because a big part of this is admitting you were wrong to yourself. It’s tough, admitting that the things you were espousing for a long time simply weren’t true. I wasn’t doing what I could to make myself better. I wasn’t going after the goals I’d set up. I wasn’t doing the things that I knew would keep me healthy, happy, and effective.
Admitting it was only the first step, though. You also need to have the tools to work with.
So what helped to bring me out of this funk?
I used a number of techniques to help me get to this point. Some were simple, like journaling. Or talking to friends who are on a similar mission. Getting myself around more people who are going after the same things and immersing myself more in reading about this stuff.
And of course, I had my knowledge and experience to recall. I knew what to do, it was just time to do it.
But there are also a few external tools:
My Apple Watch
Oh, Jamie, you big dork. Your Apple Watch got you back into a healthy lifestyle?
Well, yeah. It was a big part of it. While I’m not a complete biohacker type who tracks every little bodily function, I do like to have an idea of what’s going on inside me. And given that we’re not nearly as in touch with our health as we used to be before the dawn of agriculture, etc., I like to have a little bit of outside input.
Enter the Apple Watch. With this thing, I can track things like my sleep, my movement throughout the day, my formal workouts, the number of hours I stand during the day, and more. There are a ton of other apps that track other things, but these ones really cover it for me.
Seeing all that data in front of you lets you put together a real action plan. You know exactly what you need to work on, and there’s no lying to yourself about what you have done and need to do.
I can look at my watch after dinner and see if I’ve gotten enough movement for the day (that red ring in the picture, above). If I haven’t, I strap on the ruck with 30 pounds of weight in it and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes the kids even go with me!
And with the ability to give yourself accountability partners that also see your data… that’s right. No excuses at all!
And I totally recognize that there are more accurate trackers out there – Oura rings, Whoop bands, etc. The Apple Watch works for me for now.
The Calm.com app
And all those things were great, don’t get me wrong. I learned a ton from them. But when it comes to meditation, Calm.com is, in my opinion, the gold standard of meditation apps.
They have tons of guided meditations, including some for those who have never meditated before (or it’s been years since they did). They have meditations for kids. They have courses on gratitude, social media/screen addiction, and more. They have body course work – warm-up and cool-down routines, stretching, and more. They have a new thing called “sleep stories” – nice, gentle stories that calm your mind down and help you put the day away so you’re not up all night thinking about who that guy was in the movie you just saw.
I’ve started a morning mediation practice (19 days straight now, see my Instagram feed for my discussion of that), and it’s going very well. I’m getting better control of myself and making my mind more alert and accepting. I’m not beating myself up for my failures as much, and I’m reducing my monkey mind times. And my sleep is getting better as a result, too.
Okay, now I’m losing you, I’m sure. Yeah, I don’t really know what to call these, but totems seems as good a name for them as anything.
I wear a leather cord with a couple little pendants hanging from it. I have talked about them before, mostly on Instagram.
It’s got a Spartan helmet (you OCR types will know why that’s there, I’m sure), and a locking carabiner to hang my wedding ring and Claddagh ring I got from my wife on it while I race or work out (to keep them close to my heart). But recently I added that big leaf thing you see above. Seems a bit of a weird thing to add, but hear me out.
Going back to the topic of doing things that have worked in the past, the best shape I was ever in was when I was doing MovNat regularly. And as the MovNat logo is that of a leaf with an “M” on it… you get where I’m going with this. It’s a good reminder that I want MovNat and natural movement to be part of my life. I’m not a tattoo guy, so this is how I do such things.
I wear this pretty much full time unless I’m in the shower. So it’s always there, clinking and reminding me of my commitment to myself.
The Strides App
Yeah, another app. But this one is really handy: Strides helps you to develop good habits by listing them and reminding you of them, but also by tracking your streaks with them. It’s available on iPhone, but not Android. They are working on it for Android now, according to this.
I have this app set up to list off my things I need to do each day. HRV measurement, meditation time, Wim Hof breathing, my morning MovNat ground routine, oil pulling, supplements – all those are part of getting the day started right for me.
And then it also reminds of things like drinking enough water throughout the day, doing my squatting breaks throughout the day, a couple of work things, and more. It’s really a fantastic app – easy to set up a habit, easy to get reminders, and easy to mark off. It even has an Apple Watch App and a great web interface.
So…I’m back. No more lying to myself.
I am back and I have a plan. And I have the motivation to go forward with everything I need to do.
I’m going to be back here more often, and I’m really making an effort to share my progress with people. Of all things, Instagram has been a great help with that. Of all the social media channels I’m on, I’ve been able to put together a positive community there for myself where I see great people doing great things. I’m really pleased about how that’s going. You can see some of that below, in the footer.
So stick with me. I’m rediscovering a lot of what makes this lifestyle so awesome and I can’t wait to share with you.