I'm now half way through the 30 Days, No Alcohol biohack with Ben Greenfield and I have to admit, I never expected I'd feel the positive changes so quickly simply by quitting alcohol consumption cold turkey. The quality of my sleep has been better, I am losing weight (down nearly 5lbs) and I generally feel sharper and more energetic throughout the day. Again, I neither changed my current not-so-great diet nor changed my current not-so-intense exercise routine; I only eliminated alcohol.
Given Ben's insightful and thorough post which analyzes my DEXA body composition scan and my biomarker blood panel data from a WellnessFX blood draw, it may be of little surprise why I am already noticing positive differences in such a short period of time. But while it certainly is nice to feel the improvements, it will be even more interesting to see the quantitative impact that 30 days being alcohol-free has on my health.
In the meantime, this experiment got me thinking: it's that time of year when people are making grandiose New Year's Resolutions--many of which include some derivative of the ubiquitous "get in shape." So why do seemingly few succeed and so many of us fail at achieving our personal health goals--often by...uhh...the middle of January?
It didn't take me long to identify two key reasons:
1) A "deep enough" reason. Does the "why?" in what you are attempting to do burn deep enough and provide you with a reward that excites you enough to make the trials and tribulations all worthwhile? Does it invigorate you enough to transform a nice-to-have goal into a must-have goal?
Choosing goals that you think are mediocre usually will result in putting forth a mediocre effort. And that is not very exciting.
For example, consider the difference between the goal of Person #1 and Person #2:
- "I want to get healthy because I want to look and feel better."
- "I will improve my fitness in the next six months because I want to better provide for my family long-term and my health depends on it. I will achieve this goal by consistently eating meals that promote fat loss and building lean muscle and by working out at least 2x/wk. I will log my diet and training daily, and track my measurements, body composition and blood biomarkers monthly so I can monitor and analyze my progress and adjust course as needed."
All else equal, who would you bet on to conquer their goal? Give me Person #2 every time; they're on a mission.
2) Tracking data. As Person #2 eludes to: you simply cannot understand, let alone evaluate, anything you do not measure. So when setting a goal, the question to ask yourself is: "can I measure it?" Simply put, if a goal is not actionable and measurable then it probably is not worth starting. Odds are high that Person #1 will end up one of the newly-minted gym members who never goes back after January 15th while Person #2 is out crushing their next goal.
So what does this have to do with the 30 Day, No Alcohol biohack?
Because it also got me thinking about how and why I fell into a rut with my own fitness. And now that I have been enlightened by how drinking and careless eating are effecting me from the inside out, I know exactly how to get out of it.
First, I started by assessing my "why?" I do what I do. Is my ladder leaning up against the wrong wall, perhaps? No, my why still burns pretty deep...no issues there. Diet and alcohol consumption notwithstanding, I knew something had to change but I just didn't know exactly what it was that had to be done.
As an athlete, entrepreneur and former Wall St. professional, I know how vital tracking and analyzing data are for maximizing performance in anything. Yet like so many people, I had been failing miserably at tracking my own wellness data during my diet/training slump. Shame on me.
But before we decide what we want to change or where we want to go, we first need to figure out where we are right now so we make the most efficient and effective next move. Health goals are no different. Here are a few important tools we are using to gather data and monitor before and after progress:
- An extensive blood biomarker panel from WellnessFX which provides advanced biomarker data and actionable ways to achieve optimal health all via an intuitive online health dashboard.
- A DEXA body composition scan from DEXAFit Chicago. DEXA is one of the better methods for measuring body fat and provides valuable information besides body fat percentage. The machine not only tests for bone density but also splits the analysis into different zones which helps you identify muscular imbalances between the left and right sides of the body.
- Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test which measures how many calories your body is burning at rest.
While these resources may seem like they're only available to rich people or elite athletes, that couldn't be further from the truth. A body composition scan--DEXA, specifically--costs roughly $100/scan and WellnessFX blood panels start at only $78--approximately the same as a couple rough nights out with your friends.
And this brings up another important point: you don't even need fancy, high tech equipment to track data! The important think is to track something and measure it consistently with the same method. You always want to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. The act of measuring is often more important than what you are measuring because it helps create awareness and positive reinforcement over time.
- For more detail on the the DEXA body composition scan, click here.
- For more information on how you can assess your health from a drop of blood with WellnessFX, click here.
In closing, as we move into the New Year please take time to assess the state of your own health and take action to get going in the right direction. Logging your data is a terrific place to start. Going deeper, a WellnessFX blood panel, a body composition scan, and gaining insights from fantastic blogs like Ben Greenfield Fitness that are backed by first-hand scientific data may very well save your life!