Vice Management: What's Holding You Back?

While on the road to health and fitness glory, it’s easy to chase shiny objects. The thing(s) that you believe will get you there. The new diet, cleanse, fast, workout, class, or program.

What about the thing(s) that hold you back? We’re talking about vices (when used in excess) - alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and screen time.

It’s HARD to look at these things honestly because of what they represent. They can be enjoyable, they can be an escape, and they can be respite from a stressful week. But when you’re tearing after results, it’s necessary to tackle the subject, so that’s exactly what we’re doing.

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ALCOHOL

While it’s relaxing and fun, alcohol wreaks havoc on physical results (not to mention less talked about effects on your sleep and immune system). Balance is essential.

The advice here isn’t elimination (unless that benefits you). It’s to start where you stand and move your action patterns in the right direction. Ways to do this:

ADDRESS THE AVERAGE
Address what you do on a weekly basis. Do you average 2 drinks per day for a total of 14 per week? Shift to 7-10 (1-1.5 per day). You won’t be deprived, and it’s a real change.

REIN IN THE EXTREMISM
Are you prone to overdoing it? These types of nights leave the body and results wrecked if had too often. Set reasonable rules around the nights themselves - frequency, drink total, water consumption, etc.

RECLAIM QUALITY SLEEP
When the night goes on too long or when consumption is too high, sleep is shot. If you notice this happening, set an alcohol curfew or address choice/strength after a certain point.

Ultimately it’s about you. What does alcohol add to your life and what does it subtract? What is a realistic change?

We’ve seen it firsthand for years. Shifting the alcohol balance leads to big physical results!

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SUGAR

Sugar is a doozy. Why?

It’s in a lot of delicious foods.
Many of those foods have ties to enjoyment, family time, social experiences, and more.
It’s difficult to regulate because it’s kinda addictive!
Moderate to high quantities send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride.

IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS
We all have them. The sugar world is full of them. What are yours? What sugar sources make you the Mayor of Binge City?

IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS’ TRIGGERS
This is some Matrix level vice jiu jitsu. Often times you can identify WHY you gravitate to a trigger in the first place. Is it:

Stress?
Fatigue?
Specific social company?
Specific environments/locations?
Specific days/times?

OWN YOUR TRIGGERS
Armed with the above self-exploration, tackle one trigger at a time.

Some situations (usually the ones with the best company and the most unique environments) are just plain worth it! Proceed with confidence - those aren’t the ones we care about.

Then there are those you know aren’t worth it. The ones you regret almost immediately after. The ones that hold you back. Set rules around these to take you to the next level!

IDEAS:

  1. Don’t eliminate. Replace. If a sugar trigger is ingrained in your life, consider what you can consume or do in its place. How about a workout?

  2. Cleanse your environment. Sometimes it’s better that they aren’t around.

  3. Choose when and where. Donuts are your thing? Have some Federal Donuts while you’re out for Sunday brunch. That way you don’t get used to bringing them home.

  4. Eat enough of the healthy stuff! Picking on a sparse salad may seem like a great decision, but if it leaves gnawing hunger in its wake, trouble lies ahead.

  5. Eat balanced. If you’re an active human being and you give carbohydrates the cold shoulder, watch out later.

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CAFFEINE

While not as detrimental as other vices, over-use of caffeine has far reaching consequences. Among them are digestive disruption, anxiety, and sleep loss, all of which can snowball downhill.

Yes, a cup of morning coffee or tea is glorious. We think so too! Our goal is not elimination (unless that benefits you). It is management.

Our caffeine philosophy boils down to a single equation:

RITUAL > HABITUAL

We leverage caffeine for positive reasons - calming ritual, useful stimulant, workout enhancer, cognition booster - while safeguarding against the negative ones. Three places to start:

PROTECT YOUR GUT
If you have an iron gut, skip this. If, however, you’re more sensitive, experiment and find a QUANTITY that doesn’t send you sprinting to the bathroom.

PROTECT YOUR STRESS RESPONSE
Caffeine (particularly coffee) is a trigger for anxiety, and everyone has a different threshold. If you're prone to falling over that edge, double check your coffee QUALITY. Ensure that your beans are relatively fresh, and experiment to see if different brands/types change your physical/mental response.

PROTECT YOUR SLEEP
Don’t let caffeine rob your recovery and initiate a vicious cycle. Typically this means playing with TIMING. Setting a stop time (10:00? 12:00? 2:00?) is a good place to start. Once you set one that works, stick to it.

If you are so inclined, enjoy your morning cup today - cheers!

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SCREEN TIME

Sleep robber. Anxiety elevator. Productivity tanker.

The "screen" applies mainly to your phone but also extends to televisions, computers, and tablets.

It's a fine line. These are all devices you need to work. They are also sources of escapism, fun, and joy. But taken too far, they send you down a negative rabbit hole, leaving you with a hyperactive mind and a sore neck!

How do you balance these things? Let's turn to coach Pam for her experience and advice:

"Screen time before bed felt like a reward for a hard day’s work. I spend all day either in class, personal training, commuting, studying and yes, more studying. Looking at my phone before bed was like I was giving myself time to decompress. Except I would end up getting lost in the scrolling, anxiously planning out the following day or looking up articles on the latest fitness or physical therapy research. I really wasn’t doing any decompressing.

I discovered the screen time limit feature on the iPhone and recently implemented it so that at 10:00pm I’m locked out of most applications. If I want to open them I have to choose the option “ignore limit” which makes me second guess it, most of the time.

It’s a work in progress but limiting screen time has allowed me to get to bed earlier and get better quality sleep. Now that’s how you decompress!"

Want to set your own iPhone screen time limit? Tap Settings, then Screen Time, and explore the features.

You, your mind, and your neck will thank Pam later!