"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana I love anything I can make competitive. The same competitive fire that helped me get recruited to play on the University of Pennsylvania softball team also helped me excel at beer pong. It also helped me succeed professionally, both in a corporate environment and a startup environment.

I was sabotaging my chances at maintaining a normal body weight.

When used for good, my competitive drive helps me dissect analytics and statistics to isolate patterns for success. When used for ill, it compels me to work for weeks on end without a day off, order the umpteenth round of drinks at the bar and forgo sleep so I can work more.

This, as it turns out, is not an ideal combination of factors for health and wellness. I read up on the health implications of my work schedule, uncovering that I was sabotaging my chances at maintaining a normal body weight and sustaining my level of output. Among my discoveries:

  • Lack of Sleep: Messes up the levels of leptin and ghrelin, hormones that tell the brain it's full and stimulate the appetite, respectively.
  • Alcohol Calories: In moderation, empty alcohol calories won't have a huge influence on weight. However, "moderation" didn't used to be in my vocabulary. This calculator shows how six or seven beers a night, four nights a week, can add up. (Let's not even get into the calorie implications of the food decisions made during one of these nights.)
  • Takeout and Restaurant Meals: Those who eat foods prepared away from home several times a week nearly always consume more calories and fat than they would had they made their own meals at home.
  • Sedentary Workdays: Those who spend most of their day sitting down are at a significantly higher risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, early death and diabetes than those whose lives aren't as sedentary.
winning hand

Win at Stuff That Matters

My goal used to be simple yet singular: win. Now I've qualified it a bit: win at stuff that matters. I made a list of things that actually mattered to me.

  1. Have more downtime than work time
  2. Have a full night's rest every night (or almost every night)
  3. Earn a salary commensurate with my lifestyle and financial goals
  4. Get into the best shape of my life

Incidentally, none of the things I was currently "winning" at were on my list.

Some broad themes emerged. I needed to compress my workday and add a couple of freelance clients. I needed to eat better, exercise more and complete my day with enough time to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Tomorrow, I'll share how I tackled these themes and turned my list of things that matter into actionable goals and tasks -- and how you can do the same.

Note: This is the first installment of an ongoing series. Peruse the ever-growing archive here.

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